By Sylvain Godin | OSJ Staff
The Senators caught many people off guard with Saturday’s healthy scratch of rookie centre Logan Brown. Brown had played the previous game and the club explanation was, “It's a back to back and he needs rest.” That doesn’t pass the smell test one bit. There is no way a 21-year-old needs to have a ‘break’ on a “back-to-back”, short of an injury. If we're to take Coach Smith’s word on it, he’s not injured or, at least, there was no mention of it. So, one must assume that this means he isn’t happy with Brown’s work ethic, progress or production. What I want to show in this article is who this player is to the Senators, what they expect him to be, and what he's actually been so far during his entry-level contract with the team.
Who is Logan Brown?
Brown is a 21-year-old center, a left shot, stands at 6’6”, and weighs 227 pounds. His entry-level contract is set to expire at the end of the 2021 hockey year. Brown is a dual citizen (US/Canadian). His father is Jeff Brown (some of you would know him very well as a former Ottawa 67s coach. Brown also played in the NHL; drafted by Quebec and played for several teams, finishing off with the Caps). The younger Brown played in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires before being traded to the Kitchener Rangers in 2017-18. He also played twice for Team USA at the World Juniors. In this time, his best year was in his 2015-16 campaign, where he amassed 74 points in 59 games. (21 goals, 53 assists). Due to injuries, Brown's point production hasn't been where it could be. In his one year in the AHL, he netted 42 points (14-28) in 56 games. It’s safe to say that Logan really isn’t a scorer; he’s more a playmaker.
Why did the Senators draft him in the first round?
The following excerpt comes from eliteprospects.com, as well as the above statistics given: “Brown is a huge center who excels at both ends of the ice. He can be dominant in the offensive zone but takes care of his own end as well. His large frame is key to his success as he uses his body to shield his puck and his reach to keep it off other players' sticks. He is not overly physical for a player his size but will finish every check and battle down low very effectively. He has a good shot with a pro-like release as well as good creativity and maturity when passing the puck.“ In essence, you’re looking, in layman’s terms, at a 200-foot player who's more offensive than defensive and doesn’t use his body as well as he could. Again, he’s a playmaker more than a scorer and that’s fine; a playmaker 1C is exactly what you want so that your snipers on the wings are set up properly.
How has Brown fared in the NHL?
Brown has played a whopping 18 games in the NHL. This is, and I must stress, a minuscule sampling size. But what is curious is the length of time that he has stayed up in the first two years: 4 and 2 games. It is obvious that Brown has not yet impressed the coaches in Ottawa, not enough to warrant much of a look. They quickly figured he needed more development in either in the OHL or AHL to develop his game. Let us remember, however, that Brown had to contend with former Sens' head coach Guy Boucher, who essentially gave his veterans far more leeway no matter what kind of crappy game they had. Brown had to blow expectations out of the water, and he was nowhere near there. (Brown had one whole point in the two years he was up for Boucher: an assist.) So, with a team that was always trying to ‘win now’, the prospects of cracking the lineup were dim, to say the least.
But now, this is a full rebuild year. They started tearing things down last year by trading Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel. Duchene's exit alone should have been a prime opportunity for Brown to at least crack the lineup; he never did. Brown played his two games after the trade of Duchene to Columbus (February 22nd) and was promptly sent back on Chris Tierney, Zack Smith and Tom Pyatt; let's be honest, that's not the most elite line of centermen to have to beat out. This year, Brown has made it to twelve games before being told he was going to be a healthy scratch. His points line is 1 goal, 5 assists for 6 points in 12 games, at a -1 rating. Brown was injured for a couple of games so assuming he stays healthy and plays the rest of the games left (55 games as of this writing), a 30 point season isn’t too much of a reach. For your first season in the NHL, 30 points isn’t terrible.
What can we take out of this?
Honestly, Brown is a 21-year-old kid that needs to play and go through a full year in the NHL to understand the speed and the requirements to play in the league. While I am starting to view him far less than a 1C and more of a decent 2-3C, let’s understand that he’s still completely new at this. However, I’m a bit puzzled by Smith's decision making. Brown was replaced by JC Beaudin, who’s played 14 games already and has all of one assist. It may be that, right now, Brown just can’t slot in due to other centers on the team, but this should be far less of an issue come the trade deadline. We could see a lot of movement, freeing up space for Brown and some of the kids in Belleville.
Time will tell how Brown is going to develop, but there is no need to push the panic button just yet. He’s playing decently and one still needs to wonder if his surprise scratch from the lineup was more due to a lingering issue with his previous injury than anything else. Consider me reserved in my judgement of DJ’s choice to scratch Brown, and skeptical of the reason given.