Toronto Marlies Roster Preview: Connor Brown


Toronto Marlies – Connor Brown – #28 with Erie Otters

Age: 20

Weight: 170

Height: 5’11”

Position: Right Wing

Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario

How he got here: Drafted 156th, round six, 2012

Contract Status: Three years left on his three year entry level contract (RFA)

Quick Background

Connor Brown is the biggest question mark in the Maple Leafs system. Is he an elite scorer? Is he too small? How did a sixth round pick improve that much? There’s a lot of questions around Brown, but so far few answers.

2013-2014 Season Recap

If you’ve read a lot of these previews you’re about to see something you haven’t before. Connor Brown score 128 points (45 goals and 83 assists) in 68 games last year with Erie Otters. He was +44. In the playoffs he 18 points in 14 games for the Otters. Brown was the top scorer in the OHL and named the OHL most outstanding player.

Other winners of that award include John Tavares, Brian Campbell and Eric Lindros.

So overall, his season was pretty good.

Strengths and Weaknesses

So why then with those unbelievable point totals was Brown a sixth round pick? For starters, he’s small. Not just small, but light. While heavier now than his listed 170 pounds, that’s still tiny by AHL or NHL standards. Brown has worked hard, hoping to add about 10 pounds per year, with the Maple Leafs hoping he can get up to at least 190.

But that can’t be it, right? Smaller players get drafted all the time. In the year of his draft, Brown was a horrendous -72 on +/-. Now obviously that is comically bad but it’s worth looking a little deeper.

That year the Erie Otters scored 169 goals and allowed 338. Overall the team was -169. Safe to say that team was awful. Brown was the leading scorer, which explains why he was on for so many goals. If the Leafs were -169 on goals I’d bet Phil Kessel’s +/- would be terrible too.

All in all then Brown is a gifted offensive player who led the Otters in points three years in a row. Before being sent down by the Maple Leafs, he didn’t look out of place in NHL pre-season action.

So then why are people still questioning him? Because he played on the same team as Connor McDavid, the consensus #1 pick this coming year who’s been likened to Sidney Crosby in terms of skill.

While they didn’t always play on the same line, McDavid ended up with 99 points last year compared to Brown’s 128. Two years ago before McDavid was there, Brown had only 69 points. Either he’s developed quite a bit or his giant point increase was at least partially helped by McDavid.

Maple Leafs Depth Chart

Brown won’t factor into the Maple Leafs plans for a while, but could end up being an interesting piece down the line. After Phil Kessel, the right side is very weak for the Leafs, so weak that William Nylander (C/RW) may be forced to move to the right side.

Could Brown end up a second or third line scoring right winger in a few years time? Of course. Could he bust out in the AHL and look to small? Absolutely.

Fun Fact

Biggs is the son of Don Biggs, a career AHL and IHL player who saw action in only 12 NHL games.

2014-2015 Season Potential

There’s a surprising amount of talk of Connor Brown heading back to the OHL to play as an over-ager, but to me that makes no sense. Your biggest question is what is Connor Brown able to do away from Connor McDavid, so then why send him back to the Otters to play with McDavid? You’ll end up with the same questions next year that you have now.

The only reason to send him down is if you don’t think he can get enough playing time on the Toronto Marlies. Currently the Marlies have a plethora of right wingers including Ashton, Spencer Abbott, Brandon Kozun and Josh Leivo. That being said, two of those will likely end up playing the left side (likely Abbott, Ashton or Leivo) which means the top two Marlies lines are full.

To be the third line right winger on the Marlies, Brown would have to beat out Tyler Biggs and probably a mucker style left winger (Devane, Broll or Ross). That’s very doable and doesn’t put Brown in a position of too much pressure, allowing him to get stronger and continue to develop.

So with all that in mind, the best case scenario is that Brown makes the jump to the AHL and has a solid offensive season on the third or second line. The worst case scenario would see him stay in the OHL and fail to repeat last years numbers, despite playing with an older and better McDavid than last year, which will make him appear to be a flash in the pan.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.

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