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Brown ready for his second pro season

by Chris Lund / Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs prospect and reigning AHL rookie scoring champion Connor Brown joined TSN 1050 earlier this week during the NHLPA's Rookie Showcase.

Brown hasn't been the subject of as much chatter in recent weeks and months following the arrivals of Mitch Marner and Kasperi Kapanen to the Leafs organization. Despite the spotlight shift he remains an exciting young player for the franchise. His 61 points in 76 games led the Marlies as well as all AHL rookies in scoring during the 2014-15 season. That run of productivity in his first pro season came on the heels of winning the Ontario League's Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy with the Erie Otters.

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Brown figures to be in the mix of players fighting for a spot with the top club. The Leafs' management group has stressed patience with Brown and his fellow prospects. With that in mind, they have also made it clear that jobs are available to be had if they are won by those young players.

Brown's frame has historically been a knock on his game and a key reason the Leafs were able to snag him with pick 156 in the 2012 Draft. However, as a 21-year-old who stands at roughly 6-foot, he is now able to improve the strength that allows him to compete at the highest level.

"I've been working on putting a couple of pounds in the offseason. I feel like I've gotten bigger and stronger and a little faster," said Brown. "I feel like I've taken a couple of steps in the right direction this summer and I'm excited for training camp."

Like so many others, Brown has taken note of the many changes within the Leafs franchise. With many new faces in Toronto, it'll be a clean slate full of opportunity for everyone involved. For a young player like Brown who looks to in the organization for years to come, it's a glimpse into what lies ahead.

"There's been guys coming and going and you see some friends go too and some new good players come in," said Brown. "It's been crazy but I think they have a real sense of direction and which way the team is headed. It's fun to be a part of."

The opportunity to head into training camp and work under head coach Mike Babcock's direction is also a source of excitement and opportunity for the Toronto native.

"I was pretty excited about it. His resume obviously speaks for itself, but if you want to be in the NHL and want to be on a winning club I think he's the best bet to do it behind the bench."

Should Brown not be able to earn a spot on the NHL roster and return to the Marlies, he'll be leaned upon to be a crucial part of an exciting young group under the guidance of new coach Sheldon Keefe. The Marlies finished the 2014-15 season as one of the best groups in the AHL. With an influx of fresh talent headed to Ricoh Coliseum in 2015-16, the team will look to surpass the heights of last year's season.

"I think there were some massive steps forward last year during the season as it winded down. I think next year, you throw Kapanen in the mix and a couple of other key signings we've made, there's a lot of roster players," said Brown. "I think the Marlies will be a real good team to watch and an exciting skilled team. If I'm down there, I'll be making the most of it and playing good hockey."

If Brown's track record is any indication of what lies ahead for him, he'll be a player to watch closely beginning this fall.

The Maple Leafs open training camp on Sept. 17.

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