Do The Senators Have A Spot For Logan Brown In The Future?

Dec 16, 2019; Sunrise, FL, USA; Ottawa Senators center Logan Brown (21) skates around the defense of Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the third period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 16, 2019; Sunrise, FL, USA; Ottawa Senators center Logan Brown (21) skates around the defense of Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the third period at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
Ottawa Senators center Logan Brown (21) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Ottawa Senators center Logan Brown (21) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

If you feel like Logan Brown is the most talked-about Ottawa Senators prospect, you wouldn’t be wrong

Logan Brown was drafted 11th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry draft when the Sens moved up from the #12 slot in a trade with the New Jersey Devils. Since his draft year, the six-foot-six centreman hasn’t managed to play a full season in any league due to constant injuries.

In 2018/19, he played 56 games for the Belleville Senators (AHL) totalling 42 points, which is the most he’s played in a single season. The following season he played 25 games for a stacked Belleville team where he had 28 points. That same season he was called up to the NHL for 23 games, where he had a goal and seven assists.

Despite all of this, Brown finds himself as the forgotten prospect in this rebuild. Since the 2016 draft, general manager Pierre Dorion has added forward prospects like Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Shane Pinto, all of whom have unofficially surpassed Brown on the prospect depth chart.

Dorion said that Brown will start his season in Belleville and in the next few weeks we will see him up with the big club. That will be telling to see how he fits in the current lineup, but here’s why finding a long term fit for the 22-year-old might not be as easy as it seems:

Emergence Of Josh Norris

The Sens have been searching for a true #1 centre since Jason Spezza was traded to the Dallas Stars. I wrote this piece over a year ago about how the team hadn’t found a number 1 centre despite multiple trials.

Brown was pegged as the guy to come in for that role once he developed properly, but Dorion has made trades that have brought in significant young pieces to help with the rebuild, some of which have outperformed Brown since they’ve arrived.

Josh Norris is the primary example of this. Acquired in the blockbuster that sent Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, Norris took a huge step with Belleville last season as a rookie. He had 61 points in 56 games before the season was interrupted.

These efforts were good enough to earn him the 2020 AHL Rookie of the Year award. But Norris has backed up his AHL dominance with impressive results in the NHL. As the youth movement is taking place in Ottawa, he began the season centering the team’s top line flanked by Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson after an impressive training camp.

Norris still finds himself in the hunt for the Calder Memorial Trophy which is presented to the best rookie in the NHL. To a lesser extent, he is an everyday NHL player, which is a step further than Brown has been able to take his development.

The jury is still out about whether or not Norris can be an elite #1 centerman in the NHL but even if he isn’t, Brown will still need to pass him on the prospect depth chart. As more games go by and Norris gets more comfortable in the NHL, Brown’s chances to crack the lineup become much slimmer.

Brown’s Play Could Impact Stützle’s Transition To Centre

If Norris was the only major return in the Karlsson trade, it would probably still be a massive win for the Senators. But the Sharks’ 2020 First Round pick fell to 3rd overall, and Ottawa used it to select Tim Stützle.

Every scouting report or lineup card for Stützle leading up to the draft had him listed as an LW/C, presumably meaning he could play both the wing and middle. If the Sens were selecting 2nd, I personally would have preferred Quinton Byfield because he would have undoubtedly addressed their need down the middle.

But after watching Stützle’s play so far this season, moving him to the centre permanently would not be as much of a task as I once thought. We might even see this as soon as this season. Senators’ head coach DJ Smith was asked about it and provided details on why the team is easing him into it.

Stützle is primed to become the best player on this team regardless of his position. But if he does end up moving to the middle, and Norris continues his upward trajectory, is Logan Brown really suited to be a 3rd line centreman?

Any contending team is unbeatable down the middle, and ideally having Brown pan out as a reliable offensive option on the 3rd line would be perfect for the Senators’ long-term outlook. But an even better situation would be if Brown can step in this season, while Stützle is still on the wing.

Depending on the impact that Brown has, Stützle could stay on the wing and the Senators can roll with a 1-2 punch of Norris and Brown. That would result in Tkachuk and Stützle being the options on the left side, setting up an impressive top-6 forward group for the future (by future, I mean in two weeks).

That’s just one example of how Brown’s development could impact the rest of the forward core as they all continue to develop.

Contract Year For Brown

Dorion and his staff will certainly be asking themselves the very question of this article when they sit down with Brown’s camp in the off-season. Brown will certainly want a chance to prove himself as an NHL regular this season, and while he will probably get the chance, it won’t be enough to earn a long-term contract.

Honestly, it would be in Brown’s best interest to sign a one or two-year deal so he has time to prove why he should be considered as a long-term fit. But the most difficult aspect to negotiate on his new deal will be whether it is a one-way or a two-way deal.

Brown will certainly want a one-way contract, meaning he stays in the NHL full-time needing to be put on waivers before being assigned to the AHL. That’s why this season is so important for him. He needs to staple himself in the lineup, just like the other young players on this team.

The concern around this though is that he doesn’t seem like DJ Smith’s type of player. Brown doesn’t play an overly physical style and isn’t a world-beating skater either. He’s going to make his living in the offensive zone making passes.

He hasn’t played a game since the original shutdown of the AHL, so he’ll need to capitalize on the few games he gets in Belleville to prepare himself for the pace of the NHL.

Brown will turn 23 next month, which is when prospects typically begin to find their stride. Dorion details how Brown will be back up soon but he just needs some reps with Belleville first in this interview.

While fans have grown tired of the narrative that the young players need to “earn” their position on the roster by beating out the veterans, that is exactly what Brown needs to do. Norris beat him for the spot in training camp, so Brown needs to come in and beat someone else out.

There isn’t much time for Brown to figure it out, though. Shane Pinto looks more promising than ever and Colin White is locked in for the foreseeable future and has taken a step in the right direction this season. Brown’s clock is ticking.

Derek Stepan could be missing significant time after leaving Tuesday’s game against Montreal with an upper-body-injury, which could mean it’s time for Logan Brown to come in and make an impact.

However, in that same game, Bruce Garrioch reported that Brown could be a trade candidate at the deadline. So maybe the team already has moved on from him, and in a few weeks, we could be talking about potential trade suitors for the big man.