So when I signed up to write this thing (and then promptly forgot about doing it), I had this feeling like, “Haven’t I just written something about Connor Brown?” Turns out, yes, I also wrote Connor Brown’s Season-in-Review article at the close of the 2018 playoffs, so I guess I’m your resident Connor Brown Accidental Superfan. Anyway, let’s get to it. Let’s chat about the Leafs’ reigning Connor, since Connor Carrick is headed deep in the heart of Texas (*clap clap clap*).
I think at this point in Connor Brown’s career, with two full NHL seasons under his belt, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what he’s bringing to the table. And by two full NHL seasons, I literally mean he’s played all 82 games of the NHL regular season after cracking the roster opening day roster back in 2016. The guy is the definition of dependable. He’s in the lineup day in and day out, and you know what you’re getting.
Brown is the sort of player that Mike Babcock can point to and say, “Now that guy works hard and does his job.” And he does. He’s not going to be spectacular in any one area, but he’s going to be perfectly adequate in a lot of them. Consistency is the name of the game for Connor Brown, as you can see from his Ziggy snapshot below.
It’s safe to say Connor Brown produced like a 3rd line forward at 5v5 this season. Gotta admire the consistency there. pic.twitter.com/FQ1WSoH9kT
— Ziggy (@Ziggy_14) April 21, 2018
This season you’ll likely see Brown back on the third line — in the final preseason game that featured an NHL lineup, Brown was playing on Kadri’s wing. (Side note: What kind of unfair 1-2-3 punch down the middle is Tavares/Matthews/Kadri? Good grief.) We can all make the cognitive leap and assume that third line is going to be employed primarily in a shut-down role, although as we know, both Brown and Kadri (and for that matter, Josh Leivo) have offensive upside. What’s more, once Nylander’s contract situation shakes out, Kapanen should drop from the Matthews line to, well, this one, and that might be something fun to watch for.
Last year Brown put up 14 goals and 14 assists, which certainly isn’t shabby, although it was a drop from his 20-goal rookie season. That being said, with other teams keeping busy trying to match up to the Tavares and Matthews lines, I think it’s reasonable to see Brown’s goal total tip closer to 20 than 14. That’s without any stints playing with either of the top two lines due to injury over the course of the year.
In terms of special teams, Brown is a familiar sight on the Leafs penalty kill, which I’d expect to continue. Guy’s good with his stick, and even if he’s not the fastest guy around, you just need him to poke the puck out and spring Kapanen, you know?
And because any article on Connor Brown would be remiss without addressing trade rumors… I get where people are coming from when they find Brown expendable in a trade. He’s a good trade chip, and all joking aside, he’s a likely candidate for a forward going the other way if the Leafs decide to pull the trigger on that coveted right-handed defenseman. On the other hand, the guy’s an affordable NHL third-line winger who’s thus far showed that he’s as durable and consistent as they come.
/end preview, here’s to hoping Brown’s 2018-19 yields 20 goals because I said so.