The 2016-17 Toronto Maple Leafs had an embarrassment of riches when it came to rookie talent, with Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Connor Brown all having breakthrough years. Together that quartet combined to score 101 of the team’s 250 goals.
Most of the headlines went to Matthews, Nylander and Marner, and for good reason. They are the foundation of the franchise and the players that are going to be All-Star level producers for the next decade.
But don’t overlook the fact that Brown also potted 20 goals during the season and has the look of an outstanding complementary piece to go with the trio of superstars.
This past week he signed a three-year contract extension with the team that looks like it will be a pretty solid bargain if he can come close to repeating that production.
But Brown doesn’t seem content with just repeating it. He wants to build on it.
Here is he talking about his expectations for this season, via TSN’s Kristen Shilton.
“I want to continue to be relied upon defensively and play structurally like I have throughout my pro career, try to be conscious of that, but I think I have more to give on the offensive side, especially out of the gate. Out of the gate I was a little slow last year, so hopefully I’ll have a good start.”
Brown did have a slow start out of the gate this past season, scoring just four goals — with only five assists — in his first 31 games before coming on strong in the second half with 16 goals and 11 assists in his final 49 games. Brown is an intriguing player because he has produced big numbers at every level he has played at prior to reaching the NHL, so it seems reasonable to assume he might have even more to give at this level.
The Maple Leafs took a huge step forward in their rebuild this past season by qualifying for the playoffs for just the second time in 12 years and gave the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals a pretty good run. With another year of experience and development under the belts, plus the addition of Patrick Marleau in free agency, they might be ready to take an even bigger jump this season.