Forgive Logan Brown if, at 22 years of age, he feels like an Ottawa Senator veteran. Despite his lack of NHL playing time, very few players on the current Ottawa Senators roster have been with the organization longer than Brown. The only exceptions are Marcus Hogberg, Joey Daccord, Christian Wolanin, Colin White and Thomas Chabot).
Brown was the 11th overall pick in the 2016 NHL entry draft but he’s appeared in only 25 NHL games. In training camp last month, most analysts expected this would be the year Brown would get a good long opportunity in the NHL. In fact, since the league allowed teams to expand their rosters this year (adding a six-man taxi squad), many labelled Brown as a shoe-in.
The Sens’ brain trust didn’t agree.
Having seen him play in exactly zero exhibition games this year (all cancelled due to COVID-19), they saw enough during the scrimmages to declare—after his fifth Ottawa training camp—he still wasn’t ready for the NHL. Brown was assigned all the way down to Belleville’s AHL roster.
So the Sens opened the year without players like Brown, Erik Brannstrom, Alex Formenton and Artem Zub. Brannstrom and Zub finally got called into action last week and the club started to look better. So, on Sunday, they went to the youth well again, reaching out to Brown, and calling him up to Ottawa’s taxi squad.
So, whatever happened with Brown at training camp, he’s being given a fresh opportunity without having played a single game in the past calendar year. His last game with Ottawa was December 23rd, 2019. His most recent game with Belleville was February 15th last year.
Brown is expected to get a chance in the lineup this week but, despite the first round pedigree, Sens’ head coach D.J. Smith isn’t handing anyone anything.
“When I turned 16 years old, my Dad didn’t just give me a car. I had to earn it,” explained Smith in his daily media briefing Sunday. “When you beat an older player out or a player that’s been in the league (for a while), you know you belong. And there’s a sense of pride there that tells you you’re in the league and…you’re there to stay. And I think all the guys so far have come in and beaten guys out. And they know they belong and, for me, it (creates) a personal confidence that’s gonna allow them to be good players.”
“So many times I’ve seen young players be handed a spot and, two years later, they’re traded because they get in the league and they lose their confidence.”
The knock against Brown’s game has never been confidence. It’s always been a concern about skating and compete level. But it would be good to see Brown for a good long NHL stretch to measure out whether these concerns are an optical illusion.
Compared to smaller, more nimble players, Brown’s stride does look different; even kind of sluggish. But we don’t have many real comparisons or points of reference. The NHL simply hasn’t seen many skilled centres at 6 foot 6. Brown’s long-legged stride will never look as fluid as Thomas Chabot’s. It never has and it never will. But one thing that has been consistent is that Brown has been an excellent, often dominant scorer at every level.
That should be the focus now; finding out if he can produce like that in the NHL.
Just like Josh Norris—the guy who basically took his job in camp—Brown is tight with the young leader of this team, Brady Tkachuk. The two of them played minor hockey together in St. Louis and then again for Team USA at the World Juniors in 2018.
Norris, Tkachuk, Drake Batherson, and Christian Wolanin also share another common bond with Brown. And that’s excellent hockey bloodlines. All of their fathers have varying levels of pro hockey experience. Brown’s father, Jeff, is a former Ottawa 67’s head coach, who grew up in Ottawa and played over 700 games in the NHL for seven different teams.
So, in the big picture, the chemistry feels right. And, after 5 years of trying to make it full-time, the timing feels right.
Now it’s up to Logan Brown to show what he can do.
By Steve Warne