2016 NHL Draft: Is Logan Brown Worth a Top-10 Pick?

Logan Brown finished second in Windsor Spitfires scoring this year with 74 points in 59 games. | Photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images.

Logan Brown finished second in Windsor Spitfires scoring this year with 74 points in 59 games. | Photo: Terry Wilson, OHL Images.

Perhaps no player has skyrocketed up the draft rankings as much in the past couple months as Logan Brown. At the U18s, Brown posted 12 points in seven games, and drew the high praise from TSN’s Craig Button, who claimed Brown could be a top-five selection.¬†However, the it appears much of the independent scouting community doesn’t quite see the draft going that way, with ISS having the most aggressive rating at seventh overall, but with the majority in the early teens.

So, is Logan Brown worth a top-10 selection? Is he worth Montreal’s ninth overall selection?

Short answer: Yes.

Here’s the Long Answer:

A Season Recap

Before answer the question, it’s important to figure out why Brown has risen up the rankings this season, and why he’s in top-10 discussion.

Brown was the sixth overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection amid questions of whether or not he would report. Niagara traded him to Windsor, where he did report, and tallied 43 points in 56 games, on a low-scoring team nevertheless.

This year, his sophomore, the early signs were great. Brown began the season with 10 points in his first six games, but soon cooled off considerably. By the 36 game mark, Brown had 36 points in 35 and averaged merely 2.3 shots on goal per game. Still impressive numbers, but not the high-end production you expect from a potential top-10 pick on an excellent team.

In December and January, Brown looked to be on the cusp of a breakout.

And what a breakout it was.

G1A2APPrim. PtsP/GPPrim. P/GPSOG/GP
First 35GP6161436221.030.622.31
Last 29GP15171244311.521.073.42

On January 21st, Brown recorded four points, setting the stage for dominant second half that would see his production rival other top-end NHL draft prospects. Brown closed out the regular season with 38 points in 24 games (1.58 points per game) and then added six assists in five playoff games.

PLAYERGPGAPP/GP
Matthew Tkachuk231527421.83
Pierre-Luc Dubois181220321.78
Logan Brown241523381.58
Alexander Nylander20417211.05
Michael McLeod15411151.00
Julien Gauthier2198170.81

(Note: The above table features cherry picked stats. While interesting to compare their statistics from January 21st and on, the full body of work is most important. This table is merely to show how Brown’s production, at an incredibly simplistic manner compares to his fellow CHL draft mates.)

This culminated at the arguably the biggest stage for the NHL Draft, at the U18 World Junior Championships. Brown formed a talented line with Kailer Yamamoto and Casey Mittelstadt, chipping in 12 points and creating countless scoring chances.

The Tantalizing Tools

Brown possesses a vast array of tools, one of the most intriguing packages in the draft class.

It is Brown’s playmaking that is arguably his best asset. He doesn’t just distribute the puck, he creates space, and then distributes. He’s an equally adept playmaker off the rush and down low. Although his saucer pass falls short of prospects such as Clayton Keller or Alexander Nylander, it’s still quite good, and he has a knack for getting the passes through traffic. In fact, he’s one of the more lethal playmakers with a simple pass along the ice in the draft class.

It’s through an impressive combination of skating, strength, and stickhandling that Brown excels at finding and/or creating passing lanes. He utilizes his edges and his hands in unison to weave through traffic and fight through checks. He’s also able to fend off defenders with his strength and massive wingspan, which in turn creates time and space. Over the course of the season, his ability to protect the puck with his body has improved leaps and bounds.

As mentioned earlier, Brown started shooting in the second half of the season, and unsurprisingly, it resulted in more goals. Brown’s shot packs some power along with quality accuracy, and the speed of his release has done nothing but improve. Around the net, Brown is quite good at whacking in loose pucks, once again through a combination of establishing body positioning and using his reach. Despite these improvements, he can be indecisive while in shooting lanes, and he doesn’t appear to be the most natural finisher. While his pass-happiness has somewhat dissipated, it’s still imperative to find the right balance.

Another area that has seen considerable growth: Defensive zone play. Brown’s reach and skating combination allows him to clog lanes and disrupt the puck carrier. With possession in his own zone, he’s composed and typically makes good decisions leading to controlled zone exits. He’s certainly not a powerful hitter by any stretch of the imagination, but he does utilize his body well to win battles.

Brown plays the game at one speed. He never seems hurried or panicked; always seemingly in control. Going forward, he may have to add in more changes in tempo to game while also improving his stops/starts. This will allow him to become a more unpredictable off the rush.

Overall, Brown is an intriguing package of skill, skating, strength, and sense. His playmaking ability is high-end, and shot well above-average, but he must continue to improve his decision-making and consistency.

Conclusion

Taking everything into account–the strong second half progression, the tantalizing tools, and his solid production–he appears to be at the very least, a top-15 prospect or so. I believe that Brown is top-10 talent in the draft; although I wouldn’t go as far to say top-five.

I reckon that his upside is quite high, among the best in the draft class. He possesses the combination of skating, skill, size, and sense that could make him a quality point producer at the NHL level. While he’s not as dynamic (at least on a consistent basis) as others in the draft class, such as Keller, Nylander, or Dubois, he has the may very well have the potential to reach that.

With Tkachuk, Dubois, and Nylander quite likely to be gone before Montreal’s pick, Logan Brown could be a great consolation prize at ninth overall.

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