Player of the Month
The European Hockey.Net European Player of the Month is awarded to the player with the most oustanding performance over the course of the month
Nominations are collected at the end of each month, then a vote by the site's admin team decides the winner.
February 2007 - Bernd Brückler
He dreamed about an NHL career and becoming a better player, so he left. Austrian netminder Bernd Brückler left the Austrian Alps to climb another mountain and pursued a career in North America. He didn't reach the NHL but got drafted and he became a better player.
Born in Austria's second largest city, Graz, Brückler stood out at an early age already. At the age 16 he already practice with the first team of the local 99ers. The load of positive critiques was high, but his ice time was not. As the team decided not to gamble on a young goalie in a tight league, Brückler decided it was time for a change. In 2001 he went to study in the United States of America.
It was a good move for the goalie. After his first season with the Tri-City Storm in the USHL he found himself drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the fifth round of the NHL entry draft. He moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he finished his study and completed four seasons in the NCAA. By then Austria finally saw him standing and he made his World Championship debut in 2005 where he was the starting netminder for his country in five of six games. Although it wasn't a stellar performance the Austrian federation knew they had a potential young goaltender amongst their ranks.
Having turned pro, Brückler once again saw himself on the bench mainly. He played six games in the AHL and another handful in the minor leagues before deciding his development was stalling. He took on a helping hand given. The hand was offered by Finnish Blues Espoo late in the 2005-06 season. In need of a goaltender to cover for Neil Little, Brückler accepted the invitation and played his heart out. Not needing a lot of time to adapt he posted incredible numbers in the nine games he started (1.22 GAA and a save percentage of 95.9 %). He earned the starting job in the playoffs and a new contract for another season.
Although his solid performance the year before, Brückler once again had to fight adversity. Blues Espoo signed Ari Ahonen in the off-season sending the Austrian back to the bench. A former first round draft pick, Ahonen is considered a top goaltender in Finland. Limited opportunities for the NHL with the New Jersey Devils made him return home. The tandem of Ahonen and Brückler was considered one of the strongest in Finland, nevertheless Ahonen was traded to Finnish league giants Jokerit Helsinki midway the season. Firm belief was finally put in Brückler, who had already outplayed Ahonen.
In February, with December Player of the Month winner Martin Kariya on the team, Espoo Blues won six out of their eight games. Brückler came up huge during that spell allowing just 11 goals including a penalty shoot-out loss. For the season his numbers are not far off. Having played in 51 of the 56 games, his 2.13 G.A.A. ratings ranks amongst the best while his 92.6% save percentage is nothing to be ashamed of. His peformance in February was a good example of his wonderful season and won him the honours of the European Hockey.Net February Player of the Month award.
Having climbed several mountains so far, his career is still going upwards and his peak is not yet reached. His next check point will be a solid performance for team Austria at the World Championships. If he succeeds, he'd love to follow the path of another top goalie in the Finnish league. Former European Hockey.Net Player of the Month winner Tim Thomas, established himself as a star in Finland and is now a starting netminder in the NHL for the Boston Bruins. For now an NHL career is not in sight for Brückler, but performances like this year don't go unnoticed across the pond. Therefore don't be surprised if this goaltender who has never played in the Austrian league will be given the opportunity to become the second ever Austrian, after Reinhard Divis, between the pipes in the NHL.
- March 2007 - Petr Sykora
- February 2007 - Bernd Brückler
- January 2007 - Martin Prochazka
- December 2006 - Martin Kariya
- November 2006 - Pavel Brendl
- October 2006 - Kimmo Rintanen
- September 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- May 2006 - Kenny Jönsson
- April 2006 - Aleksei Morozov
- March 2006 - Reto von Arx
- February 2006 - Nicklas Lidström
- January 2006 - Patrick Yetman
- December 2005 - Miroslav Hala
- November 2005 - Vasily Koshechkin
- October 2005 - Tony Salmelainen
- September 2005 - Sergei Zinoviev
- May 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- April 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- March 2005 - Henrik Lundqvist
- February 2005 - Marian Gaborik
- January 2005 - Jaromir Jagr
- December 2004 - Tim Thomas
- November 2004 - Marian Hossa
- October 2004 - Jukka Voutilainen
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