Connor Brown has made the best of his new opportunity since being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs
When it was announced this past summer that Connor Brown would be departing the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Nikita Zaitsev to join the Ottawa Senators, I felt pretty happy for the guy.
Brown was a sixth-round pick in 2012 who had made his rounds in the AHL before Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs gave him a chance to be a part of the big-league roster as a bottom-six forward in 2016.
The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect pool is not an easy one to break out of, and when Brown made the NHL roster, it was just not a great time for him to expand and grow his offensive game.
This of course was due to the context of the team in their outburst of young talent and the rest of their prospects excelling at a faster pace. Brown joined a forward lineup that was led by a rookie Auston Matthews, alongside Mitch Marner and William Nylander who all had their first real breakout seasons. When competing against talent like that, it is very easy to have your offensive role pushed back.
Connor Brown’s offensive capabilities were in the spotlight throughout his time in junior hockey, but his numbers never translated to the NHL until now. He finished first in points in his final OHL season with the Erie Otters in 2013-14, scoring 45 goals and tallying 83 assists ahead of Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome. (Stats courtesy of HockeyDB.com)
The potential is clearly there, but since entering the league, Brown has failed to score more than 40 points in the NHL.
Brown is currently on pace for a career year for the Senators with 12 points through 15 games in the 25-year-old’s fourth season in the NHL. With Ottawa’s lineup being on the lower end of the league’s standards due to the fact they are in the midst of a rebuild, Brown has been able to succeed in a top-six role that he rarely had the opportunity to play in when he was in Toronto.
Brown is also on the first power play unit for the Senators alongside their top end young players like Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk, which has added to an already increased amount of ice time to combine for an average of 20:24 a game. Third among all Senators skaters, this is almost seven minutes more than his average of 13:48 a game last season with the Maple Leafs. (Stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com)
It seems that Brown has joined the Senators at the perfect point in his career. At 25-years-old, on a youth-driven team, he has the chance to watch the young talent around him grow and develop, and could possibly be a part of a competitive team within the next five to seven years.
One major reason why some NHL players who thrive in junior hockey never pan out is based on opportunity. The Maple Leafs never needed Connor Brown to be an offensive force because of the forward group they had, and now with the Senators, Brown has an opportunity to become a solid top-six forward in this league.