The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ sixth round pick in 2012 Connor Brown is having an amazing season that is being overlooked, because of the success of other rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
"And the Leafs poke it to centre, a two-on-one. Connor Brown going to the net with a pass on the right side…Scores! Uncle Leo! But what a play by the ginger leprechaun Brown."
This was the call made by Joe Bowen during Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers after Leo Komorov made it 2-1 for the Leafs. The assist on the play was Connor Brown’s 15th of the year, giving him a season total so far of 33 points.
Brown is having a memorable rookie season that is unfortunately being overshadowed by the success of the Big Three. Not only has his skill set come to play out this year, but his diligent work on the Leafs’ penalty kill has been recognized all season.
Brown being in the NHL at all used to be somewhat of a fantasy for most people. Despite leading the Erie Otters in scoring in the 2011-2012 season, he wasn’t selected until the later rounds of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
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It may have been partly due to the fact Brown was a -72 that year, which at the time when plus/minus was a focused stat didn’t look good. The offence was there, but teams worried about his size as he stood at 5’11” and weighed 170 lbs.
The criticism did not stop the Leafs from drafting the Toronto born right-winger. Brown continued to work and develop with the Otters.
"A lot of people try to doubt Connor Brown – he’s going to be a really good player."
In his rookie year with the Marlies, Brown led the team in scoring with 21 goals and 61 points. This total also led all rookies in scoring in the AHL.
The narrative began to transition from, “Is Brown ready for the NHL?”, to, “Why isn’t Brown in the NHL?”. Leafs nation got their fix of what some scouts and members of other organizations thought would not happen – Brown’s NHL debut.
In the latter half of the 2015-2016 season, a lot of roster players for the Leafs were getting injured. Because of this, Marlies were getting called up on emergency basis.
Brown got his turn being called up for an injured Komorov. And then, in a game against the Anaheim Ducks, this happened:
This was a special moment for any person that followed the Toronto boy’s journey. This was the beginning of Downtown Connor Brown.
Fast forward to this season, and Brown’s work ethic has made him one of the staples of this team. As it currently stands, he is fourth in rookie scoring on the Leafs behind Matthews, Marner, and Nylander.
In a warped world that no Leafs fan would want to live in where those three aren’t on the team, Brown would definitely be considered the top rookie.
Brown has skill, he works hard, and he kills penalties. He is the real deal. A lot of people like to compare this years Leafs’ team to the Chicago Blackhawks. Matthews is your Johnathan Towes, Marner is your Patrick Kane, and you’d like Morgan Rielly to be your Duncan Keith.
Perhaps when the Leafs get to that point of playoff contention, Brown can be your Marian Hossa. That dependable player that never takes a shift off and can play throughout your line-up. Every Stanley Cup winning team needs one, and Brown looks like he’s on his way to fulfilling that role.