Season Preview: Connor Brown, Andrew Nielsen, and a 2nd


Everyone seems to love Connor Brown. Most importantly, Mike Babcock loves Connor Brown.

It’s easy to see why: He’s considered a bit of a swiss army knife type of player. A coach’s dream, you can put him out in any situation and he’ll do fine. And by all accounts, he’s low maintenance off the ice.

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From a higher-level, Dubas point-of-view – Brown has two years left on his $2.1 million cap hit, and mainstream thought suggests he contributes what you’d like from someone on that contract.

But what is he actually good at? Not much!

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All above data via CJ Turtoro.

Above data via Corsica

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Let’s quickly sum up all of the above data: at 5v5, Brown gets favourable zone starts, doesn’t contribute much offensively, is not great at zone entries or exits, and doesn’t move the needle possession-wise. Not the prettiest of pictures, and my eye-test has always been underwhelmed by him. But don’t just take it from me, take it from Justin Bourne:

My other skill note is Connor Brown’s shot. I don’t know if it’s the lie of his stick or his curve or his posture (he skates pretty hunched over) or what, but unfortunately he’s just not going to be able to score from distance consistently without finding a way to get a little more mustard on the puck.

To be honest, if Connor Brown wasn’t a Local Boy®, I don’t think he’d get as much love.

As far as I’m concerned, Brown has to step up a bit this season to be a part of this team’s long-term plans. You can get similar or better contributions from the Leivos, Johnssons, Kapanens, and Trevor Moores of the world – and you’d get them for cheaper.

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Brown’s perceived value is likely much higher than his actual on-ice value. It’s been speculated for awhile, but I do wonder if Anaheim is a fit here – the Nonis connection and now especially that they’re dealing with some major injuries.

Once the Big Boys are all signed, Dubas and co. will have to get creative with how they trim some fat. I think Brown Cow should be first on the chopping block.


Few Leafs prospects have fallen from grace more in recent memory than Andrew Nielsen. After being drafted in the 3rd round (65th overall, 7 picks before Anthony Cirelli), he looked like an exciting prospect, putting up a point-per-game (70 points in 71 games) for Lethbridge in the WHL. His time in the Marlies has been a bit more erratic.

The soon-to-be 22 year old is 6’4, physical, and put up decent point totals in the AHL in his first season. But his points-per-game have dropped and penalty minutes have gone way up, leading to a big descent down the organizational depth chart at LHD.

To be quite frank: he will never make the NHL with the Leafs. In front of him at LD: Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Travis Dermott, Rasmus Sandin, Martin Marincin, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman. And I’m probably forgetting some others.

At the end of the day, Nielsen is big and has a big shot. There are still plenty of GMs that value that more than actual facts and data, so I think there would be a market for him. Package him with a Connor Brown and you now have 2/3rds of a pretty good package to get a big piece.


The Leafs’ 2nd Round Pick this year is likely going to be in the 55th-60th overall range.

Some notable picks in that range from the last couple years: Jonah Gadjovich, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Filip Gustavsson, Taylor Raddysh, Oliver Kylington.

Some Leafs picks in that range from the last couple years: Eemeli Rasanen, Carl Grundstrom, Jeremy Bracco.

In short, it’s a crapshoot, even moreso if you’re the Leafs. That said, this draft will be the first that’s entirely led by Dubas, so who knows.

Or maybe the Leafs will continue the cycle and trade their 2nd for a pending UFA centre, like Tomas Plekanec or Brian Boyle. No, seriously – those two are UFAs at the end of the season.

The last, and best, option is to package the 2nd round pick with two other assets – let’s say Connor Brown and Andrew Nielsen – for a top pairing RHD or another gamebreaking offensive talent (hello Artemi Panarin).


As you can see, while the Leafs don’t really need these three assets, any other team in the league would be thrilled to get them. In fact, they’d probably be stunned at the Leafs offering such a valuable combination for their player and yell “jackpot!” (I fit this in here just to pay off my wonderfully-designed article image).

Don’t be surprised if Dubas acquires an elite talent with this exact package at some point this season.

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  • Brandon

    It’s funny, I’ve been underwhelmed by Brown for quite a while now, but you’re right, he does seem to get a lot of love. I’m sure part of it is his play on the PK, but is that enough given other emerging options on the PK and what you’ve shown above? I’ve read people who say he’s a good forechecker, but if that’s the case, why is it that he gets so few assists? Even secondary ones?

  • killerkash

    You’re expected return on trading those 2 players and a 2nd is way out of wack. They’d be lucky to get back a 3rd pairing dman. This is a case of Leafs nation always valuing their players far more than anyone else around the league.

  • Matmarwill

    I dunno. Your analysis seems to overlook that brown is trusted to be out at rhe end of games and on the pk. Also, that he can put the biscuit in the basket when given a checking role. He’s a guy who can move up the lineup when needed. And he works his ass off.

    Neilsen has been eclipsed, as you mention. However, he was out on the ice for the last game of the calder cup run, so he aint that bad. Plus he’s got balls. If he gets his penalties under control he could atleast hold the fort as an ahl vet with injury callup spot duty on some nhl team.

    It really is an important year for both of these players.