-- With plenty of time to kill while starring in the Swedish Elite League, 6-foot-1, 203-pound Fabian Brunnstrom
decided it would be a great opportunity to sharpen his game at the nearby arena in the early morning hours.
“I understood that in order to be successful, I had to make myself even better; I had to do more,’’ Brunnstrom told NHL.com. “So, while I was playing in the senior leagues in Sweden, and because I had nothing else going on during the day, I asked the rink manager at our facility (in Sweden) if I could have a key so that I could go to the rink and work out every morning.’’
The manager obliged and Brunnstrom began waking up early every morning to head on out to the rink, alone yet determined, to sharpen his game.
“It was dark when I arrived so I had to turn on all the lights first and then push out the nets,’’ he said. “I just practiced my stickhandling one day, my shot the next and then my skating. It was a little bit of everything actually.’’
That dedication is what ultimately brought Brunnstrom, the most sought-after, undrafted player this year, to Dallas and a two-year contract in May.
He was not only courted by Dallas, but Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Anaheim were all in the running for his services.
“It was a very tough decision for me,’’ the left wing said. “All the teams were great as well, but I just felt Dallas was a little bit of a better fit for me.’’
“I like everything about him,’’ said Brett Hull
, Co-General Manager of the Stars. “To me, the most important part for any player is having great hockey sense and he’s got tons of that. He’s got great hands, is smart, moves the puck very well and is very sound with his positioning. He has all the tools and attributes to play in the NHL this season.’’
Brunnstrom spent 2006-07 with Sweden’s Boras HC, scoring 37 goals and a league-high 73 points in 41 games. In 2007-08, he registered 37 points and a team-high 28 assists in 54 games for Farjestads of the Elite League.
“He’s a workout fiend and is in tremendous condition,’’ Hull added. “It’ll take him time to get a feel for what it’s like, but we’ll work him slowly. It’s great to hear stories like that where he was going out on his own and skating to improve. With that dedication and knowing how bad he wants to make it, it really makes you feel good as a GM.’’
The 23-year-old Brunnstrom felt his final season in the senior league was not only well spent, but necessary prior to signing with an NHL team.
“Last year, I wasn’t too good with all the interviewing and the media and the newspapers,’’ he admitted. “I really wasn’t into that. I just wanted to work hard without all the hype, but now I’m glad I’m here and ready to work. I’ve dreamed about playing in the NHL my whole life.’’
Growing up in Jonstorp, Sweden, it wasn’t until later in his teenage years when Brunnstrom really determined that hockey was in his future.
“In our town, you could really either play hockey or soccer and I played soccer until I was about 15 and then just concentrated on hockey,’’ he said. “(Jonstorp) is a really small town, but it’s a hockey town. I started when I was 5 when my mom and my neighbor one day just decided to go to a nearby rink and get me involved.
“When I jumped to the senior leagues at 17, I think the game became a lot more fun,’’ he said. “It was then I knew I wanted to play hockey for real and do everything I could to play in the NHL.’’
Brunnstrom is competing in his first camp in a Stars jersey this week at the NHL Prospects Tournament here at Centre I.C.E. Arena. He says he isn’t out to prove he’s better than any of his teammates. Brunnstrom is also looking forward to the club’s main camp at Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Frisco on Sept. 19.
“I’m not here to establish myself or show them what I’m made of,’’ Brunnstrom said. “I’m here to have fun, help my team win the tournament, play as good as I can and get used to the small rinks. Everything is little bit different here but that’s good. I need to get used to that.’’
Stars head coach Dave Tippett
said the Prospects Tournament will put Brunnstrom in the proper frame of mind prior to training camp.
“We think (Traverse) will be a great learning experience for him,’’ Tippett said. “He has all the tools to play in the NHL, it will just be an adjustment to see how quickly he adapts to our game. He’s got an excellent attitude, excellent skill level and all indications are that he’s just going to progress from here. His first step is becoming a regular player on our team, which is his goal right now. I know he has good hands, plays the game at a fast pace, is a good give-and-go player and is very competitive when it comes to battling for loose pucks.’’
Brunnstrom already has been introduced to and skated with a few fan favorites in Dallas.
“It was a great honor to skate with (Mike) Modano, (Brenden) Morrow and (Sergei) Zubov,’’ he said. “When I was a little kid, Modano was a great star and Morrow and Zubov were great leaders. It really feels like I’m in a dream or something, but in a good way.’’
The Stars are hoping that dream will work out to their advantage.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.