TLN Top Twenty Leafs Prospects: #6 Connor Brown

For the first time since drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Connor Brown has been unanimously recognized as a top ten prospect by the TLN staff. A skilled yet undersized winger, Brown showed steady improvement up until last season, when he broke out and dominated the Ontario Hockey League. In 68 games with the Erie Otters last season, Brown scored 45 goals and led the OHL (and CHL) with 128 points. For his efforts, Brown was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. 

There aren’t many hockey people out there who will deny that Brown possesses plenty of offensive talent, but there are still question marks in his game.
Yes, Brown put up lofty numbers last season, but he did so as a 20-year old playing against largely younger competition. Brown is also not a plus-skater, even though he’s only 5’11 and 160 pounds, and he certainly isn’t known for his defensive prowess. There’s a lot to like about Brown’s skill set, but there are a number of things working against him that demands a realist approach to projecting him. 
Brown is eligible to join the Toronto Marlies this coming season in what would be his first taste of professional hockey. Otherwise, it’s back to the OHL for his overage year, though it’s hard to imagine there’s much Brown has left to learn at the Junior level.
He’s in a good situation, as the Marlies certainly lack the pure offensive skill that Brown brings, especially if Peter Holland and Carter Ashton stick in the NHL as expected. However, Brown will need to produce early and often if he hopes to wrestle a top-six role from one of Spencer Abbott or Brandon Kozun down the right side.
In the meantime, you can take solace in the fact that Brown has spent a considerable amount of time working on his skating with Barb Underhill, and has had the opportunity to train with Leafs staff in what is now three prospect camps. Rounding out his skills away from the puck and improving his skating will be necessary if Brown wants to play in the NHL, as it’s unlikely his offensive skill will outright make up for his inefficiencies at the pro level.
There will certainly be high expectations for Brown in his first pro season, but the Leafs would be wise to exercise patience and give Brown every opportunity to further develop his skill set and round out his game. Despite his warts, Brown is a rarity in the organization – there’s only one, maybe two players in the Leafs’ prospect pool that have as much offensive skill. Brown’s upside is that of second line scoring winger, but failing that it’s hard to see where he fits into an NHL lineup. As much as the phrase is overused, it applies – Brown is a top-six-or-bust kind of prospect.
  • SeenItAll

    It’ll be interesting to see what translates to the pro level immediately and what he’ll need to work on. I assume that he’ll score a bit if given the opportunity right away.

  • SeenItAll

    To say that he made great strides offensively is not doing Connor justice. This young man was taken in the 6th round and had a -72 rating, this past year he not only was the highest scoring player in all of the CHL that by the way includes a lot of 20 year olds and he also had a +44 rating. Yep he is small, but the guy is tenacious and has made tremendous strides in improving every aspect of his game. PPP has him rated as #14 prospect which I think is just a way out of wack!

  • Jonythehatguy

    This looks guy really promising, I think the CHL league leader in points deserves a shot at the Marlies don’t you think? This will be a test for new management. If they can’t make this guy work with the Marlies then all hope is lost lol 😛

  • Jonythehatguy

    I would predict Connor Brown will probably takes 3 years of AHL development before he is even considered for over half an NHL season.

    He needs to bulk and refine his game. It will take him time to adjust to a league that is home to both youngsters and grown men – physically and mentally. He will also need to adjust to a league that is less flexible in system and positional play.

    It is easy to get excited but we should remember that he is just 20 years old. For comparison Carter Ashton and Peter Holland are 23 and still refining their games to earn NHL spots. Kadri was 22 in his first “full” (lockout shortened) season.

  • silentbob

    He sounds like Kyle Wellwood to me.

    Wellwood was also very skilled with the puck, but wasn’t a great skater, wasn’t great in his own zone, and wasn’t very big. Wellwood was one of the top scorers in the OHL when he was 19/20. Wellwood was also a very productive AHL player.

    Hopefully Brown can over come those deficiencies and be an effective NHL player.