Senators prospect Logan Brown wants to dominate world juniors
More mature, committed forward could impact tourney for U.S., says Spitfires coach
Windsor Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro marvels at a "completely different" Logan Brown this season. His attention to detail. His improved shot. His game preparation.
Trevor Letowski, who coaches the NHL prospects in the Ontario Hockey League, wonders if Brown will take over the upcoming world junior hockey championship in Buffalo a la Patrik Laine in 2016 as the six-foot-six, 220-pound centre tries to help the United States successfully defend its title.
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"When you're that size, have skill and get some consistency in your game, you become a difficult player to contain," says Letowski, a former NHL forward who will serve as an assistant to Canada's head coach Dominique Ducharme for the second time in three years. "In a big role, he can dominate games. We'll see if Brownie has another level."
Brown, who has 13 goals and 24 points in 15 OHL contests since returning from a four-game stint with the Ottawa Senators, likely will be the No. 1 centre on a 23-player U.S. squad. A year ago, he was one of the final three cuts, mainly due to a partially torn tendon in his right thumb suffered a month earlier.
"Getting cut last year was tough and left a lot of fire in my belly," says Brown. "Every superstar in the NHL played in that tournament. I want to contribute to the team and be one of the best players in the tournament."
Letowski says work the 19-year-old Brown did this past summer to further his development was evident when the centre returned to the Spitfires in late October.
"There's a consistency to his game that I don't think was there before," says the coach. "I think he's matured as well and he's enjoying playing the game.
"You could see right away he was skating better and shooting harder. He already had a good package [of tools] to begin with and then you bring in his attitude."
Brown says he was surprised to be sent back to junior following a terrific camp with the Senators that saw him finish second to Mark Stone in team scoring with six points on three goals and three assists. The son of former NHL defenceman Jeff Brown also had nine shots on goal, tied with defenceman and camp roommate Thomas Chabot, who starred for Canada at last year's world juniors and was named tourney MVP.
But an even bigger eye-opener for Brown was learning the importance of pre-game stretching, a thorough cool down after each practice and game, while maintaining strength ahead of off days.
"During warmup before games, guys have a full sweat going before they put on their equipment," says Brown. "With the busy NHL schedule, you learn quickly how hard every day is, that you'll get worn down if you don't take care of yourself.
My first step and explosiveness with my stride has never been better. That's the biggest improvement I've noticed this season.— Senators prospect and U.S. world junior hopeful Logan Brown
"When I was 16, everything I had been doing was working, so I didn't think to change. When you get a day off in junior, you don't do anything. Now, I'll stretch and get a sweat going. That's what helps you avoid injuries."
After shoulder, wrist and hand injuries limited Brown to 35 regular-season games last season (14 goals, 40 points), the forward moved back to St. Louis in the summer for the first time in three years to build his strength and conditioning at Elevated Performance, a state-of-the-art performance centre popular with NHL players. Brown believes he "got his hands back" working with former Blues defenceman Jamie Rivers.
"I have more jump in my step and more endurance," says Brown, whom the Senators drafted 11th overall in 2016. "My first step and explosiveness with my stride has never been better. That's the biggest improvement I've noticed this season."
At the world juniors, Brown is expected to skate between fellow NHL draft picks Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo) and Kailer Yamamoto, who began the season with Edmonton and had three assists in nine games before the Oilers sent him to Spokane of the Western Hockey League. Despite the fact head coach Bob Motzko had Mittelstadt skating with several other players at the selection camp, he has the aforementioned trio "in his back pocket."
In August, they combined for 20 points in five games at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., after amassing 14 goals and 34 points at the 2016 world under-18 championship.
Brown is Windsor's go-to forward and No. 1 centre, says Letowski, following the departures of 2016-17 leading scorer Jeremy Bracco, top goal-scorer Gabriel Vilardi and Aaron Luchuk.
Harder, more accurate shot
"Last year, we had a lot of high-end players," Letowski added. "There were some nights when [Brown] would be a little quiet, whereas now it's not happening. Obviously, his role has increased and he's playing more minutes, but he's dominant most nights. I don't know if you could say that last year."
Said DiPietro: "When you get that taste of the NHL … it fuelled him more to get back there. He's a great person, a great player. He's a pro.
"His shot's harder, more accurate and he sees the ice well. He's always been one to work hard, but the way he takes care of his body before practices, after practices, before games, after games … he's been reaping the benefits."