Connor Brown scores a Hat Trick to lead the Erie Otters to 7-4 win over the Brampton Battalion, Feb 03, 2012 - Terry Wilson/OHL Images
The Toronto Maple Leafs used their sixth round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to select Connor Brown from the Erie Otters of the OHL. I'm normally one of the first people to disdain the use of +/- as an individual statistic to track hockey players but Connor Brown's -72 this past season for Erie in the OHL is noteworthy for a few reasons. First off, it was the worst mark in the OHL this past season and secondly it indicates the areas in which Brown most needs to focus if he wants to make it to the NHL - his defensive play.
Brown led the Otters in scoring this year as a 17 year old, posting 25 goals and 53 points in 68 OHL games as a rookie. The team also only managed to win 10 games all season and only picked up Shoot Out points in 2 games. They were atrocious, so being the best of a sad sack lot doesn't help Brown's pedigree that much.
That being said, Brown was named to the First All-Rookie team for the OHL this season but his rookie season came a bit late at the age of 17 as he was originally considering going to the NCAA and thus played the prior year with the OJHL St Michael's Buzzers, often with or against players as old as 20.
Standing 5'11" and 170 lbs, Brown is an offensively inclined, speedy skater, but his size poses a bit of a concern. Brown models his game after smaller NHL players like Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux, so if he has any hope of developing into an NHL player it's likely at the offensive end of things. Considering he's likely to see more top minutes as Erie looks to rebound from a league worst showing, he'll definitely get the opportunity to improve defensively as the team grows around him and other highly rated prospects like Dane Fox, Luke Cairns, and Adam Pelech.
Ironically, Fox was ranked higher than Brown in the final rankings released by Central Scouting (46th vs. 110th amongst North American skaters), but went undrafted as Pelech (65th overall to the NY Islanders) and Brown were both selected.
Brown does have a small benefit when it comes to genetics and wisdom in the family as his father Dan is a coach in the Toronto Marlboros organization in the GTHL while his older brother Jeff played wing for the Oshawa Generals and Windsor Spitfires before moving on to CIS hockey with the University of Western Ontario. Editor's Note: At least his brother will have a nice income to support him for the next four years. Also, the dumb school changed its dumb name to Western University.
At this stage of things, it looks like Brown will have a peripheral shot of making the NHL and that will largely hinge on either A) improving vastly from a defensive perspective or B) becoming a top scorer in junior before making the jump to the pros. Ideally he'll do both but at this point thanks to his size and defensive short comings I'd say he likely tops out as an AHL prospect.