If I were to tell you that of the 211 NHL players who sliced their blades into all that extra European ice during the lockout, two of the top three point producers were be Evgeni Malkin and Jaromir Jagr, you’d probably shrug.
Between them they have seven Art Ross trophies and more than 600 professional games played overseas.
But if you were to discover that the second-most productive NHLer overseas this season (his 60 points are only two fewer than Malkin’s total) was Damien Brunner, you might ask, “Who?”
Unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fan, in which case the correct response should be, “Woo-hoo!”
The 26-year-old Brunner — whose Wikipedia write-up is four sentences long, and whose Twitter following is below 800 – is set to dig into the right side of what could well be the most dangerous line in the NHL’s Western Conference in 2013-14.
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told MLive.com he will be assembling a Voltron of offensive awesomeness (not his precise words) by forming a top line that consists of Pavel Datsyuk, slam dunk future captain Henrik Zetterberg and Brunner.
No other line in the NHL will be more ready to hit the ground running.
“They’ve been playing (in Europe) and they’re in shape,” Babcock told MLive of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. “They play good together. Last year they started out slow, never got going.”
But it’s Brunner you want to steal in your fantasy pool.
Outscoring all in his native Swiss A league — including such stars as Logan Couture, John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin – Brunner flew to North America with a 1.73 points-per-game average and an undeniable chemistry with Zetterberg, which the two Wings/wings developed as teammates on EV Zug.
Granted, Brunner is familiar with the Swiss style of play and will now be without all the comforts of home.
Still, the 187-pounder is a gritty, Swiss-born (not an oxymoron) forward whose penalty minutes have crept up. He signed a one-year $925,000 deal with the Wings the day 2012’s free agency opened and looks to be a bargain.
In four seasons with EV Zug, he has improved in every one. But nothing like this season.
Zetterberg (a mellow 32 points in 23 games with Zug) and Brunner already mesh well. So when trying to get Datsyuk (36 points in 31 KHL games) to fit in well with a hot duo is your big hurdle, you have no hurdle.
Detroit is not the only Original Six club looking to unveil a front-line attack that will make defencemen dizzy.
Point your ears east, and you could go deaf with the racket of the G-N-R line, which is just tuning up.
Although coach John Tortorella has yet to name his starters, all-stars Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Brad Richards were the only three New York Rangers forwards sporting white jerseys during the team’s practice Wednesday.
The New York Post reports Tortorella was watching the trio at the Rangers practice facility; coaches aren’t yet permitted to formally run practices.
Such a dream line would likely take a little longer to develop chemistry than Detroit’s, with the newly acquired Nash being the only one of the three to benefit from game action during the lockout. Nash scored 12 goals in 17 games playing alongside Thortnon with the Swiss A’s HC Davos.
Richards, 32, has seen his production decline in each of the past two seasons to a low of 66 points in 2011-12, but the Rangers are expected to be a more offensive team than the one that scored fewer goals than seven others in their conference, yet they still finished first in the East.
Gaborik is coming off a 41-goal season and shoulder surgery.
“I need to get some contact drills and stuff like that,” Gaborik, who was cleared for practice in mid-December, told the Post. “Having not been in game-like situations, it’s going to be a good test in camp and I’m looking forward to go back on the ice.”
If Nash is on the opposite wing, he has even more to look forward to. And although Tortorella likes to tinker with forward combos, we suggest you cue up the “Appetite for Destruction” headlines if these three click.
“(Nash has) proven himself in the league to be a great power forward, a great goal scorer,” Gaborik said Wednesday. “He’s going to add not just scoring but overall power in our offense.”
With the 48-game schedule restricting teams to intra-conference play, if the potential best new lines in the NHL ever meet, it won’t be until the Stanley Cup Final.
We could think of worse scenarios.