It always seem to be those little known guys who fly under the radar and then pop out of nowhere with a great season that seem to make a significant impact on fantasy hockey.
Amidst all of the free agent hoopla last summer surrounding Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Detroit Red Wings made an under-the-radar signing of a little known Swiss forward named Damien Brunner.
So why does this matter to fantasy hockey owners? Well, Brunner hit the jackpot earlier this week when Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock announced ahead of the opening of training camps that Brunner will start the season playing on Detroit’s top line alongside superstars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
I’ll wait while you go add him to your roster…
The 26-year-old Brunner was a scoring leader in the Swiss National League A last season where he tallied 24 goals and 36 assists in 45 games. Fast forward to this season and Brunner again found himself in the Swiss league while awaiting a resolution to the NHL lockout. Brunner made his presence known this season, leading the league in scoring with 25 goals and 32 assists for 57 points in just 33 games. His production far outpaced that of NHL players like Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares and Linus Omark, who all played in the Swiss league during the lockout.
It looks like the Wings are intending to give Brunner every opportunity to succeed in the NHL from the get-go. Brunner will also benefit from the fact that he played on the same line as Zetterberg for EV Zug in the Swiss league, and it’s been reported that the two already have great chemistry. Zetterberg and Datsyuk are one of the best one-two combinations in hockey when they play together, and the addition of Brunner could lead to some serious damage by this line.
Elsewhere in the league, news came out recently that Alexei Kovalev, who last played in the NHL in 2011, will attend camp with the Florida Panthers on a try-out. Kovalev’s last few years in the NHL were not great, to say the least, but he could be worth keeping an eye on if he catches on with Florida and gets to play with some of their young talent.
Surprisingly, James van Riemsdyk is only owned in 25 percent of Yahoo fantasy hockey leagues. JVR will likely start the season playing center on the top line with Phil Kessel, who netted 37 goals last season, on his wing. With a new home in Toronto this year, JVR might surprise some with a break-out year. Keep an eye on him when the season opens next weekend.
Despite not having played a game in the NHL, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz is owned in nearly half of all Yahoo fantasy leagues. If he’s available in yours, he might be worth the gamble. Regarded as a solid puck-moving defenseman, Schultz should get plenty of playing time with Edmonton’s young core of up-and-comers like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. Schultz should see his fair share of power play time, too. If your league is part of the 50+ percent where he’s available, keep him on your radar.