Toronto Maple Leafs: A look at Downtown Connor Brown

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 22: Connor Brown
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 22: Connor Brown /
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Connor Brown is a workhorse rightwing forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Standing 6 feet tall, and weighing 200 pounds, Connor Brown was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 6th round, 156th overall, in 2012.  In his NHL career of 171 regular season games and 13 playoff games, Brown scored 70 points and 4 points respectively.

In the last two seasons, Brown had a perfect attendance record, having played a full 82 game season twice consecutively.

Although he was pushed down the depth chart when Patrick Marleau signed with the Leafs, and hence, had his average time on ice (TOI) drop by over a minute per game, Brown continues to play hard, and is relied on heavily to kill penalties.  He is the type of durable, hardworking player that the Leafs head coach Mike Babcock loves.

If Brown spends time on a line with Tavares or Kadri this season, he could produce points at an elite pace.  In 2013/14, Brown was the Erie Otters leading scorer.  His 128 points in 68 games (45 goals and 83 assists) was higher than Connor McDavid’s 99 points (28 goals, 71 assists) in 56 games.  Although, granted, McDavid was 16 years old during this season, while Brown was 19.

This article’s purpose is to take a look at Connor Brown’s NHL career so far, and theorize about the trajectory he’s on.  It seeks to answer whether we’ve seen Connor Brown’s ceiling as a player at the NHL level as a bottom 6 forward, or whether there’s still potential for growth into an elite scoring threat that excels at killing penalties.

Before continuing, here’s the links to the sources I used to write this article.

What has Connor Brown accomplished so far?

In terms of his accomplishments at the NHL level thus far, and relying strictly on the eye test (for now), I’d have to say Connor Brown has actually accomplished a lot.  He was born in Toronto, and drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team he grew up cheering for (that’s why he’s called Downtown Connor Brown), and he’s contributed more at the NHL than most others players drafted in the 6th round ever do.

And, as a matter of objective fact, Brown is by far the most successful player drafted in the 6th round in 2012.  His 70 points (35 goals and 35 assists), in 171 regular season games make him the leader in both games played and points.  Breaking it down further, he has more goals and more assists than all his 6th round peers in 2012.  In addition, he had the least penalty minutes of anyone who played at least 35 NHL games drafted in the 6th round that year (the next closest player to him in round 6 was Vinnie Hinostroza with 39 points in 106 games).

To give you a better idea of how Brown stacks up against his 2012 draftee peers, of the 30 players drafted in the 1st round in 2012 (which coincidentally is the year the Leafs drafted Morgan Reilly 5th overall), Brown has played more games than twelve of those players, and has scored more points than fifteen of them.  At this point, every point he scores is like found money.

What’s next for Brown?

This season will likely see Connor Brown fighting for ice time as the Leafs don’t really have a ‘bottom six’ but rather, an insanely deep collection of third and fourth line players.  He could end up on the third line paired with Kadri, or he could help create the most stacked fourth line in hockey.

I think you’ll see him on the third line with Kadri and Johnsson.

It is conceivable that Brown will score at least 40 points this season on assists alone if Johnsson continues to develop, and Kadri continues scoring at a hot pace.  Furthermore, if Brown can remain healthy and keep his shooting percentage up where it’s at (16.7% in the 2017/18 playoffs), he may beat his previous career best of 20 goals in a season, thus finishing this campaign with over 60 points.

At age 24, Connor Brown still has some time to learn and improve.  He’s already shown that he has a good hockey IQ, and that he never gives up on a play.  And he’s never had a season in the NHL where he didn’t score a shorthanded point.  Brown is a workhorse, and this next season will give him a chance to dominate his competition while Tavares and Matthews draw the attention of team’s top defenders and shutdown forwards.

My prediction?

Next. Leafs Top Ten Prospects. dark

82 games played, 44 assists, and 25 goals, for 69 points.

Questions: Would you like to see Connor Brown used more on the power play?  Do you ever see Connor Brown in a top 6 role?  Connor Brown hasn’t missed a day of work in 2 years; can you say the same?  Did signing Marleau to the Toronto Maple Leafs negatively impact Brown’s development? Thanks for reading!