Will Damien Brunner Be This Year's Diamond in the Rough for the Devils?
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Lou Lamoriello's talent for acquiring forgotten, overlooked and disregarded players and getting major returns from them is perhaps rivaled only by the late Al Davis. Each year, the longtime Devils president/general manager seems to bring in the right player at the right time and gets big contributions on the ice and in the locker room.
In 2011, Lamoriello picked veteran Petr Sykora off the NHL scrap heap and New Jersey was rewarded with a 21-goal, 44-point season from the Czech winger, who also chipped in two goals and provided veteran leadership as the Devils made an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Last season, a seemingly insignificant February trade with the Los Angeles Kings brought Andrei Loktionov to Newark. The Russian center contributed eight goals and four assists in 28 games.
This year, in addition to signing winger Jaromir Jagr to a one-year contract, New Jersey's crafty executive has brought former Red Wings forward Damien Brunner to camp on a professional tryout basis. The 27 year-old Brunner logged 12 goals and 14 assists in 44 games last season for Detroit, and he has impressed head coach Pete DeBoer so far.
"He's got some skill, he's always moving, he's got a good stick, he looks like a good offensive player," DeBoer, per The Star-Ledger's Rich Chere. "He's here to bring speed and bring some offense and bring some creativity."
As the Devils attempt to rebound from a devastating summer in which they lost two top goal scorers in David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk, offensive ability promises to be a coveted skill set in Newark. While Brunner isn't yet signed to an NHL contract, it seems a roster spot is his to lose as the Devils will attempt to redefine themselves in the post-Kovalchuk era. But despite New Jersey's need for offense, Brunner isn't taking anything for granted and knows he has to play hard in camp to secure a contract.
Per Chere's report, Brunner said, "We'll see. Let me first play a couple games and we'll talk about it then. We'll see how I play."
Brunner jumped right in after arriving at Devils camp, skating on a line with Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus while also getting work on the power-play unit. He knows why he's in camp, and he appears to be happy with the role he will assume if he's signed by the Devils.
"It's where I have to make an impression. Create offense and make some good plays and try to shoot the puck as much as I can," Brunner said, per Chere's report.
If Brunner can make a splash in New Jersey this season, he'll be another name on a long list of players who came to the Devils and revived their careers.
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