First-year Detroit Red Wings forward Damien Brunner is a name NHL fans might hear a lot in the future. The can't-miss Swiss was the most highly sought European free agent last summer after leading the Swiss League in scoring and following it up with a huge showing in the world championship.
Brunner, who is not eligible for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year because he is too old at 26, already has wowed fans with a dazzling shootout winner at Columbus on Monday.
But guess which team was the first to pursue Brunner? Guess which team he credits with first providing him with the realization that he actually might have a future in the NHL?
"Minnesota," Brunner said Friday morning -- hours before playing on a line with Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg against the Wild. Brunner scored the first goal of Detroit's 5-3 victory, on a power play 13 seconds into the second period.
Two years ago, Brunner had a high ankle sprain and traveled to Minnesota to see a doctor with whom his agent Neil Sheehy set up an appointment. Blair Mackasey, the Wild's director of pro scouting, was a big fan, so the Wild invited Brunner to St. Paul for a meeting.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher was willing to sign Brunner right on the spot.
"They said they had been following me for a year and I met with Chuck, but it was just too early for me back then," Brunner said. "I wanted to have a strong year in Switzerland and prove I was ready.
Red Wings phenom Brunner credits Wild for his confidence
Minneapolis Star Tribune | Jan 26