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Top 25 Under 25 - #21 Connor Brown

The countdown rolls on with a smaller skilled forward making a significant jump up the rankings.

When it comes to a strategy for how to handle the later rounds of the NHL Entry Draft, many members of this site have a similar view on the correct strategy; pick the little guy who scores a lot. The rationale behind this is pretty simple; the sort of player that can only project to become a depth player, capable of playing on the fourth line (maybe the third) or the third defensive pair but without much offensive contribution, are very commonplace. You can find a number of these types of players from various sources so it's a bit of a waste to try and draft them.

On the other hand, adding key skill guys is much more of a challenge, and these types of players are much rarer. The strategy is that a team is better off taking every chance they get through their draft picks to shoot for these sort of players.

In the 6th round of the 2012 Entry Draft, the Leafs took a chance on a player like this in forward Connor Brown of the Erie Otters. At 5'11" and 170 lbs, Brown isn't exactly a large body. But he is immensely skilled and through 2 seasons in the OHL he has shown himself to have a pretty strong scoring touch.

As one of the few veterans on a young and awful Erie squad, Brown, named captain (yep, another one) last season, was counted on to provide steady leadership up front as the Otters looked to dig their way out of the basement. While his teammate, phenom Connor McDavid received the headlines, it was Brown that led the way in scoring, with 69 points in 66 games, a slight uptick over last year.

Most importantly, while we all know +/- can be misleading, the team as a whole made a big defensive improvement, with Brown going from a league-worst -72 rating to -11. Even with its limitations, shaving 60 goals off of your +/- is impressive.

Brown's offensive prowess sees him shoot up our rankings by 14 spots (one of the 3 players who made the biggest gains), landing at #21.

clrkaitken birky SteveBurtch Chemmy SkinnyFish BowerPower JP Nikota PPP 67Sound Rank
19 19 27 13 31 16 29 27 18 21

EDITION 2 - 35/41

The panel was pretty split on Brown's placement this time around. 5 of the 9 voters thought Brown's performance this season was worthy of a place in the Top 20 of our countdown, while the other 4 thought he should have been left out of the Top 25. (SkinnyFish did not even rank him). Bower Power had him at 16, right between (in his rankings) Greg McKegg and Tyler Biggs, and explains his ranking;

Didn't quite match Greg McKegg's output at the same age, but scored more than Tyler Biggs.
Bower Power

Now that Brown is entering his Draft +2 season, the expectation should be a stellar offensive campaign (we're talking 80 points). Connor McDavid will have had a year of development under his belt, and Washington draft pick Andre Burakowsky could be on the way to Pennsylvania as well, so it's not out of the realm of possibility.

If we expect Brown to contribute in a top nine role in the future, this would be the benchmark of expectations for this season.