Of all the new faces that have made their way into the Detroit Red Wings lineup for the 2012-13 season, none have made an offensive impact quite like Damien Brunner. Despite being a right-handed shooter, he has played on the left wing for most of the season, showing great chemistry with captain Henrik Zetterberg as well as Pavel Datsyuk.
However, the opposition has more to fear from him than offensive awareness; he has proven to have an incredible wrist shot, even in split-second opportunities.
His first moment in the NHL limelight came in Detroit’s second game of the season when he scored the game-winning shootout goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets. On his first career shootout attempt, his move strongly resembled what fans have dubbed a “Datsyuk-ian deke,” a move popularized by teammate Datsyuk.
With the game on his stick, he beat Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to win the shootout for Detroit. His first NHL goal would come the very next night when he scored on Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars. From that game against Dallas to an 8-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks 16 games later, Brunner scored his first 10 NHL goals. He finished the season with 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 44 games played.
Despite enduring something of an “offensive drought” after his first 10 goals, Brunner has demonstrated an invaluable skill: the ability to beat goaltenders at point-blank range. As he adapts to the NHL’s style of play, as well as the intensity of playoff hockey, he is certainly a potential wild card for the Red Wings.
He currently has seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine postseason games, including the overtime goal in the fourth game of the quarterfinals against the Anaheim Ducks. Watch for this rookie as he gains experience and works to return his game to the level we saw early on in the regular season.
If he does, it will certainly mean trouble for Detroit’s opposition anytime he is on the ice.