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Maple Leafs top 25 under 25: Top 5 kicks off with Connor Brown

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Connor Brown jumps three spots from #8 to #5 this year. Where will he be on opening night?

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NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Brown has been climbing these rankings every year he’s been eligible. He’s never gone down a spot, only moved up. Never backwards. Only forwards. Upwards. Not Downwards. And twirling. Always twirling.

Brown ranked between seventh and fifth this year, with each vote higher than last years eighth overall:

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7 5 5 7 5 7 6
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7 5 6 7 6 5 5


Connor Brown was drafted by the Leafs in a year that every tram could have been forgiven for passing him over. His Erie Otters were an awful, awful, team. A 10-52-3-3 record. Brown finished the season a -72. While +/- isn’t recognized as a true showcase of a players skill or place on a team, that’s still a terrible, terrible number.

The Maple Leafs waited until the sixth round to take Brown, because they saw more than the numbers revealed. Brown lead the team with 53 points. Brown’s -72 just shows how much he was relied upon and on the ice while leading a historically bad team.

The following years Brown was named captain of the Otters. In his final season with Erie, Brown led the team in scoring with 128 points, and took them to the Western Conference Finals, where they fell to the eventual OHL Champions and Memorial Cup runner-up Guelph Storm.

In Brown’s first year in the AHL he placed third for the Marlies in goals, tied for first in assists (with Leipsic and Brennan), and was the Marlies scoring champion with 61 points.

Sixty-one points in his first AHL season. Heading into this past season big things were expected, but on November 1 Brown went down with a broken ankle. Despite this setback, missing three months of the year, Brown scored 29 points in 34 Marlies games and was given seven games with the Maple Leafs, where he scored one goal and five assists. Brown scoring just off one point per game in this very small sample size is still indicative of his future potential.

Brown will have an excellent opportunity in training camp this year to impress the coaching staff while the big stars are away at the World Cup. Head coach Mike Babcock had this to say last year after training camp:

"He was our best kid in training camp," Babcock said. "He has elite hockey sense and he’ll be an NHLer for a long time."

Connor Brown is not a huge player, he’s not a small player. He’s not flashy, when he’s at his best he’s not noticeable until he gets that pass and scores. He’s always in position and can see where he should be at all times.

Brown is still waiver exempt. With the amount of players who aren’t on the Maple Leafs he could be the sacrifice to the waiver gods and start off the season as a leader on the Marlies, ready to take a spot on the Maple Leafs if the need arises.

Should he start on the Leafs? Yes. He’s the exact type of player needed in the bottom six. He’s not at the point where he can take top six minutes, but if he plays on the third line he’ll bring some extra talent to the bottom of the forward corps.

Is it detrimental for him to start with the Marlies? Not yet. Another few months as a top line player can help him hone those skills that have earned him an opening night spot.

He plays with passion, and he plays to win every time. Connor Brown is everything you want in a hockey player, and someone the Maple Leafs could rely on for a very, very long time.