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What Can Capitals Expect From Connor Brown This Season?

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Capitals forward Connor Brown

As the 2022-23 NHL season rapidly approaches, teams will soon start to piece together their rosters in training camp. For the Washington Capitals, several new names will look to secure their spot in the team’s core group. One of those players is Connor Brown.

Brown has seen time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators over the course of the last seven NHL seasons. The 6-0, 185-pound right-hand shot was mainly a bottom-six player with the Leafs but earned a bigger role following his move to Ottawa.

Ultimately though, what can the Capitals expect to see from Brown, and what role is he going to play this season?

First off, let’s take a look at his ice time and resume so far. During his Leafs tenure, Brown averaged between 14 and 16 minutes per game. Over the last three years with the Senators, that number increased significantly, as he averaged between 18 and 20 minutes per night. Brown also wore the “A” for the Senators and logged a career-high amount of ATOI on the power play and penalty kill.

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Going into Year 1 with Washington, the 28-year-old called himself a jack of all trades — and emphasized his work on the PK.

“I always thought I was a skilled forward and I see myself as that. But I remember my junior coach telling me really to hone in on being a good penalty killer and making that something I take pride in. And ever since then, I really have,” Brown said. “I try to have a knack for stealing pucks, I just really enjoy penalty killing… defensively as a forward, I steal pucks and play tenacious. I like to consider myself as doing a little bit of everything. So I think I can help out the second unit and everything I can do, every little thing, I will try to bring it all.”

With both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson being on long-term injured reserve and no clear-cut timetable for their return — though Wilson will likely return in September — there’s a good chance Brown will end up in the top-6 forward group to start the season. He also has those numbers and has shown he can be a 20-goal scorer and playmaker. He had a career-high 29 assists last season but just 10 goals to go with that. In 444 career NHL games, Brown has 90 goals and 126 assists for a total of 216 points.

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Whether or not he remains in the top-6 will, of course, depend on his production and his chemistry with his linemates, who could very well be Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov on that top line. There is also the possibility that Brown could play right wing alongside Dylan Strome at center and Anthony Mantha on the left. Plus, Brown could flourish in a third-line role with Lars Eller or Connor McMichael down the middle and Marcus Johnasson or Conor Sheary on the left side.

While he got PP time last season, he has just nine goals and 22 assists on the power play in his career. As mentioned PK is where he truly shines; he can also generate offense there. In 2020-21, he led the entire NHL in shorthanded goals with five. He’s also a disciplined player, never having over 24 penalty minutes in a single season.

On the defensive side of his game, he has improved when it comes to play in his own end and puck possession. However, he was a minus-15 at the end of last season. Still, that can be easily attributed to playing for Ottawa, who, as a team, gave up lots of goals last season and were in the bottom half of the league when it came to goals against.

Ultimately, though, there’s a lot for Brown to prove in a contract year. He will earn $3.5 million this season before becoming a UFA. If he wants a pay raise — and more time in D.C. — he will have to show that he’s a good fit. And he’ll certainly get to do that this year.

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