SUN Hockey Pool

Flames had eye on Brunnstrom

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

The list of unearthed Europeans expected to join the NHL next season isn't ending at Fabian Brunnstrom.

Another name to keep in mind is Martin Thornberg, who helped lead HV71 Jonkoping to the Elitserien title, and apparently the Flames are among those teams greatly interested in signing the left winger who'll turn 25 this summer.

In the regular season, Thornberg collected 20 goals and 17 assists in 51 games and also racked up 78 penalty minutes.

He netted another 17 points in 17 playoff games.

Seeing as the Flames will be short on left wing, Thornberg could possibly be a fit.

Certainly an interesting side game for hockey poolies could be created next season. Have a wager for who can pick the best undrafted, previously unknown European who makes his debut next season.

On top of the Brunnstrom signing by Dallas, the Detroit Red Wings quietly inked 24-year-old forward Ville Leino.

Leino led Jokerit with 77 points last season (28 goals and 49 assists) in 55 games and was named the Finnish Elite League's regular-season MVP.

Who knows if all these players will have great success or become yet another Jukka Hentunen or Mathias Johansson, but it goes to show how inexact the scouting of science really is.

FLAMING C-NOTES

The Flames didn't just jump into the pool at the end to sign Brunnstrom. Brunnstrom spent the last couple of seasons with Farjestads, which happens to be the team headed by former Flames star Hakan Loob.

According to sources, the Flames tried to ink Brunnstrom around a year ago, but the Swedish forward wanted to play through the season and see what interest came ... If my math is correct, Calgary will have seven NHL defencemen signed once Mark Giordano's deal is officially allowed to be completed and is trying to re-sign Jim Vandermeer. That means:

1. David Hale will be looking for his first NHL goal elsewhere and/or 2. GM Darryl Sutter will try to unload Rhett Warrener or Anders Eriksson this summer, if not both ... Would like to see Curtis McElhinney get a legitimate chance to play at least a half-dozen NHL games in a two-month span before deciding whether he can or can't cut it. Seeing as the Flames developed the pending unrestricted free-agent goalie, who calls Calgary home, it may yet come to fruition.

HOCKEY TALKY

OK, we saw Ron Wilson getting fired in San Jose. Paul Maurice in Toronto, too. Joel Quennville's axing in Colorado was a bit of a shocker. Let's get this straight, Quenneville has a team absolutely decimated by injury for half the season and has to rely on Jose Theodore between the pipes and not only gets into the playoffs but wins a round. Granted, the whimper his team went out with against Detroit in the second round wasn't pretty, but all things considered it was a successful season for the Avalanche ... Speaking of coaches, Mike Babcock deserves much more credit than he gets with that Detroit team. The squad executes the system -- puck possession, not constant trapping, thankfully -- nearly perfectly.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Going back to the Sharks, is it possible the team would fire Wilson AND trade Patrick Marleau? The coach and captain apparently didn't see eye-to-eye, so it's hard to believe the Sharks would deal away a player as good as Marleau without seeing how he bounces back with a new bench boss. If Marleau is on the market, the phone calls would come fast and furious, with Sutter speed-dialing Sharks GM Doug Wilson ... For those who can't wait to get their hands on the next latest and greatest video game, Rick Nash will be on the cover of the 2K9 NHL game.

YOU DON'T SAY

"Being young and dumb probably helps. You don't realize it's a heck of a challenge."

-- Dallas Stars defenceman Matt Niskanen on his team's chances to come back on the Detroit Red Wings


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