16. Logan Brown (Reader Rank: 18, Last Year: 8)
Ever year, the same question gets asked during the Top 25 Under 25: how do you balance a player’s potential with what a player has already shown in the NHL? There’s easy years like 2016 when Mark Stone had both the highest potential and had progressed the farthest in the NHL, or all the years before that when Erik Karlsson was the top player by both metrics. Then you get years like 2017 (ignore that Fredrik Claesson at #4 pick...) when you’re comparing Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a proven NHL 3rd-line centre and penalty kill specialist, to Thomas Chabot, a player with top-pairing potential but 0 NHL games played. What’s more important, a player’s potential or what a player has shown?
Nowhere has this question been more argued, debated, compared, and contrasted among Ottawa Senators players over the past few years than for Logan Brown. Brown’s potential is enormous. He was picked 11th overall in 2016, with the Sens trading to move up one spot to nab him. He was a 6’ 6” playmaker, in the mould of Jason Spezza or Joe Thornton. That year, he was coming off 74 points in 59 games for the OHL Windsor Spitfires. He followed that year up with 40 points in 35 OHL games in 2016-17, and then 48 points in 32 OHL games split between Windsor and the Kitchener Rangers in 2017-18. His game translated well to the AHL, with 42 points in 56 AHL games in his rookie season (2018-19), and followed it up with 28 points in 25 games in 2019-20. Though some wished he might shoot more, and especially might use his frame more effectively, there was no question he carried his offensive touch with him.
On the flip side, the biggest problem with Brown is his history with injuries. You may notice that not one of those seasons listed above consists of a full season. Since drafting Brown, he has missed significant time each season. In 2016-17, he had wrist, shoulder, and hand injuries. In 2017-18, he had an undisclosed injury that limited him to three games at the World Juniors. In 2018-19, he suffered a knee injury on opening night with the B-Sens. In 2019-20, he missed the first month of the season with an upper body injury. And in the 2021 shortened season, he missed all but 13 AHL games, and only made it into the final game of the NHL season, due to, you guessed it, another injury. How can he be a difference-maker in the NHL when he can’t even make it through a month of hockey without getting sidelined?
The other big knock against Brown is his play style. A big body who hardly hits will always look like a player who’s not trying hard enough. He has the potential to physically dominate opponents, but instead sticks to the perimeter and prefers to dish than carry the puck. Is this a complaint rather than a difference in strategic opinion? Likely your opinion on how Brown does play vs. how he should play has affected your opinions of him over the past few seasons. It probably wouldn’t be as big a knock against him if he was 5’10” and played the same way, but at the same time, he’s not 5’10”. Not everyone is blessed with the size to overpower opponents, and it’s pretty easy to imagine how dominant he could be if he used that size to full effect. I don’t have an answer to this question, but I can say there are valid arguments on both sides. And like it or not, Logan Brown is not a power forward, and never will be, and that may very well cost him a true NHL shot.
His NHL sample size is hard to make any conclusions from. In 30 games, he has a goal and eight assists, playing primarily sheltered bottom-six minutes with occasional powerplay time. Seeing as he has seasons of 4, 2, and 1 NHL games played, the only season with a real sample size we have is 2019-20, when he played nearly 220 5v5 minutes over 23 games (all stats via NaturalStatTrick.com). He put up a total shots attempt percentage of 49.2%, but a shots on goal percentage of 51.1% and an expected goals-for percentage of 56.0%. However, his most common linemate was Brady Tkachuk, who seemed to be driving the bus on that line: together their shot attempt percentage (5v5) was 56.0%, better than Tkachuk’s 51.0% without Brown, but miles better than Brown’s 40.1% without Tkachuk. So though they were good together, Brown needed a solid linemate to carry him. At first in that callup, Brown looked like his confidence was growing, but as time went on, he got fewer and fewer minutes from coach DJ Smith, and eventually ended up getting sent down. It’s hard to know what went on behind the scenes, if there was a work ethic issue, if there were concerns about durability, or if Smith (like most NHL coaches) trusted physical veterans over skilled rookies.
The other question I ask when ranking players is their likelihood of making an NHL impact. A few years ago, Brown had no competition for the number-one centre spot. Now, Josh Norris and possibly Shane Pinto or maybe even Tim Stützle could take that spot, and Colin White has likely surpassed Brown on the depth chart as well. There were questions as to whether the Sens would even protect him in the expansion draft, though with few other players who needed protection, the Sens could easily protect him and still have a spot for
Evgenii Dadonov Austin Watson. Coming into camp this fall, there’s a pretty good chance he won’t make the team out of training camp, and won’t get called up unless there’s a couple of injuries. It’s hard to see how he fits into this team’s future plans, given we also know they’ve been pursuing a top-six centre via trade. He could end up being part of a trade, given his stock probably isn’t very high on its own, but he might push a deal to be more palatable to the team giving up the best player.
16th is his lowest ranking on this list since debuting at 6th in 2016. He held steady at 6th in 2017, rose to 2nd in 2018, fell back to 6th in 2019, and then was at his lowest so far at 8th in 2020. His ceiling hasn’t dropped, but with yet another year of not proving himself in the NHL due to continued injuries and being leapfrogged by others, our faith in his future with this team is plummetting. Maybe he’ll get a good shot with a team short on prospects. Maybe he’ll be another case of a promising young NHL career completely derailed by injuries. What we do know is that, for a player who’s had a number of make-or-break moments, this season is absolutely make-or-break for his future with the Sens. If he isn’t traded before the fall, he’ll have to be an incredible standout to make the NHL in October. If he’s sent down, he’ll have to absolutely crush the AHL to earn a callup. He’s one of the team’s most skilled players under the age of 25, but he’s feeling more and more like a longshot to be part of the Sens’ upcoming contention window.