Dallas Stars' New Player: Is Fabian Brunnstrom Worth All the Hype?

Matt EichelSenior Writer IMay 8, 2008

Does anyone remember Jiri Dopita?

Yeah, Dopita was the 34-year-old big Czech power forward who dominated the Czech Elite League in the late 1990s, averaging over a point per game.

They said he was the best player not playing in the NHL.  In came the 2001-2002 NHL season, and Dopita finally donned an NHL jersey as member of the Philadelphia Flyers.

He was only able to score 11 goals and add 16 assists in 52 games. 52 games is the length of the Czech league season, yet he could not duplicate his success at the NHL level.

After another, even more dismal, season with the Edmonton Oilers, Dopita went back to Europe where he still plays today.

Now enters the most recently named "best player not playing in the NHL"—Swedish forward Fabian Brunnstrom.  To say the least, Brunnstrom has made quite a story of his arrival in the NHL. 

From the 20-team lottery for the slick, Swedish forward, to his trips to Detroit, Dallas, Toronto, and Montreal to pick a team to play with. Brunnstrom is simply doing his homework, looking for the best place to play.

However, at age 23 Brunnstrom is younger than Dopita was, and seems to be more of a finesse player, rather than a power forward.

Brunnstrom's rise to the Elisterien came fast and unexpected as he notched 21 goals and 23 assists in 38 games with Jonstrops IF in Divison One in 2005-2006. This, in turn, gave him an opportunity at age 21 to play a few games with Rogle in the Swedish Allsvenskan league.

The following season Brunnstrom rose to the top, netting an impressive 37 goals and 26 assists in 41 games with Boras HC in Division One. He earned a promotion to the Swedish Elisterien league, where he notched nine goals and 28 assists in 54 games this last season.

Yet, the key question is, can Brunnstrom cope with the NHL's grueling seven-month season, followed by another three months of playoffs? Or is Brunnstrom just another Dopita, waiting to disappoint NHL European scouts?

Whether or not Brunnstrom is ready, he has decided his team: the Dallas Stars. 

"In the end there was no wrong decision. All of the organizations involved were extremely professional and respectful in their approach and the opportunity was carefully explained.

"The Dallas option was simply the best one overall for Fabian and he is very comfortable with his decision," said Brunnstrom's agent J.P. Barry in an interview with the Canadian Press.

Both the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks made last-dash efforts to throw a sale pitch Brunnstrom's way.

Yet, with all the mayhem surrounding Brunnstrom and his imminent entry into the NHL, is Brunnstrom really all the hype has made him out to be?

Can he adjust from the finesse-level European hockey to the North American style of game?

Will he be the prolific set-up man he was this last season in the Swedish Elisterien league?

If all goes well for Dallas and Brunnstrom succeeds, then an NHL team will have finally won in snagging an undrafted European forward who does not fizzle out mid-season.

On the other hand, Brunnstrom could become just another Dopita.