Fabian Brunnstrom may not turn out to be the next Daniel Alfredsson, but apparently a ton of NHL teams aren't willing to take a chance on being wrong about him.
In fact, one assistant GM reckons every team in the NHL is probably after Brunnstrom, a little-known 22-year-old rookie for Farjestad in the Swedish Elite League. That's because Brunnstrom is just now developing into a legitimate NHL prospect and now that European players are subject to the same draft rules as North Americans under the new collective bargaining agreement, he is an unrestricted free agent (take a look at this YouTube video for a small sample of his skill level).
"He's the first of a lot of players from Europe you're going to see in this situation," said the assistant GM. "It used to be you waited for European players. Lots of times you would draft them and keep them over there for four or five years to see how they develop. Well, you can't do that anymore."
Brunnstrom, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound forward, is a classic late bloomer. Last season he was playing First Division in Sweden, which is two steps under the Elite League and was a star at that level, which prompted Farjestad to sign him this season. He skates very well and his three goals and 13 points in 21 games are probably not a clear indication of how good he is offensively.
One scout said it's doubtful Brunnstrom could step in and play on an NHL team's top two lines right now, but he is seen as a good prospect with a lot of upside. And remember, there are a number of hockey executives who still wake up in a cold sweat over not paying more attention to Alfredsson, who was drafted 133rd overall by the Ottawa Senators as a 21-year-old in 1994.
"He's coming pretty much from nowhere," said Farjestad GM Hakan Loob. "Mentally, he has grown strong in the past year, but he has the potential to become mentally stronger. He looks like he has been in the Elite League for a couple of years the way he moves the puck and skates and everything like that."
Loob did acknowledge that Brunnstrom has faltered a little after a fast start, so rushing him into the NHL would not be a wise idea.
"If they treat him the right way, I think he's got a good future ahead of him," Loob said. "But if he's thrown into the NHL too soon, he might not do anything."