Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
This offseason, two of the Devils top forwards not only left New Jersey, they exited the United States.
David Clarkson signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ilya Kovalchuk controversially returned to Russia to join SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, and they took with them a combined 26 of the Devils 112 goals.
New Jersey brought in familiar faces Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe to team with holdovers Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac, but another move could end up being a bigger one for fantasy owners: the signing of 27-year-old Damien Brunner to a professional tryout and eventually a two-year contract.
Brunner, a former Swiss League star who played his rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings in 2012-13, scored a pair of goals Friday against the New York Islanders after taking eight SOG in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
Brunner has skated most frequently on a line with Patrik Elias this season. Last year, Clarkson was often paired with Elias and ended up with 15 goals, nine assists and a whopping 180 SOG in 48 games. Brunner seemingly has stepped into Clarkson's role as the high-volume option, as he has taken 12 SOG in the first two games.
If he continues to produce, we'll soon see Brunner used on the top power-play line for the Devils, likely replacing Zajac and playing with Elias, Jagr and Ryder. That will help his production even more than playing with Elias at 5- on-5.
The 27-year-old Brunner had an up-and-down rookie season with the Red Wings but still finished with 12 goals, 14 assists and 123 SOG in 44 games. Brunner actually had 10 goals and 16 points in his first 19 NHL games but hit a wall and had two goals and 10 points in his last 25 contests.
It's understandable why that happened.
The forward played in Switzerland's National League A (NLA) and had 25 goals and 57 points over 33 games prior to the lockout ending. Brunner had never played more than 50 games during a season in his career, so he likely wasn't conditioned to play a 48-game schedule on top of his 2012-13 NLA experience.
That could be a concern this season as Brunner now has to play an 82-game NHL schedule, but he is worth acquiring for the production he'll offer at least over the next 50 games.
If he starts slowing down at that point, fantasy owners will be prepared.