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Panthers Q&A: Josh Brown on Killing Penalties, Marlins Hats & More

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Bob Boughner knows exactly what he has in Josh Brown.

When the Florida Panthers found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-on-3 power play in last night's 3-2 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boughner looked down the bench in Brown's direction, choosing to send the rookie defenseman onto the ice to get the job done.

And for a full minute, the 25-year-old succeeded in keeping the crease clear of Penguins.

"He's a fantastic penalty killer," Boughner said of Brown. "I've known that since his junior days. [Panthers assistant coach] Paul McFarland used to be one of his coaches back in the Oshawa days. He's a big, lanky guy. He's not afraid to get in front of pucks and block shots and do the dirty things. That's what makes him a good penalty killer."

A mere seven games into his NHL career, Brown has been a reliable shutdown presence for the Panthers, racking up five blocked shots and 12 hits while averaging 12:21 of ice time per game. When he's been on the ice, Florida has surrendered a single goal over 78:30 of 5-on-5 play.

Prior to making his long-awaited NHL debut on Jan. 18, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound blueliner had certainly paid his dues, spending more than three full seasons honing his game in the minors, including a 54-game stint with ECHL Manchester during his first pro campaign in 2015-16.

Now finally in the NHL, Boughner believes Brown's best hockey is still ahead of him.

"He seems to get better and better every day," Boughner said. "Some guys are better in the NHL than they are in the American League. I think he's one of those guys. The game's straightforward for him up here. He doesn't try to do much, and he plays hard. I think he's been a real pleasant surprise. This is his first call-up, and he's done a real heck of a job."

After Friday's practice at the Panthers IceDen, FloridaPanthers.com's Jameson Olive sat down with Brown to discuss his new life in the NHL, his overall approach to the game and much more.

OLIVE: Looking back at last night's win over Pittsburgh, what went through your head when Bob Boughner tapped you for that 5-on-3 penalty kill at such a crucial moment?

BROWN: I was kind of surprised a little bit. But that's part of my game, so I was hoping I'd get to go out there. I was obviously pretty thrilled that he called my name. Like said, it's definitely part of my game, but when you see the Pittsburgh Penguins power play, 5-on-3, it's definitely a little nerve-wracking. I'm glad we got the kill.

OLIVE: Like you said, you got the kill and the Panthers went on to win the game. How good did it feel to give the team that kind of boost and help pick up the two points?

BROWN: Yeah, for sure. That was a big point in the game and a big kill for us. It was pretty cool to be a part of that.

OLIVE: When you look at the aspects of your game that you thought would make the smoothest transition from the AHL to the NHL, was your skill on the PK near the top?

BROWN: I think so, for sure. Obviously, coming from the AHL the minutes aren't the same because there's guys who have been here a lot longer than me. But I figured if I was up here I could definitely try and bring what I bring to the penalty kill every night. Every time coach throws me out there, I just try and do my best and do what I know how to do pretty well. It's been working out so far.

OLIVE: You're only seven games into your NHL career, but it feels a lot longer than that given all of the time off for the NHL All-Star Game and Florida's bye week. Overall, how would you sum up this last month or so?

BROWN: It's been unbelievable. The guys are great. Like I said after my first game, it's been a dream come true. It's pretty fun being up here right now.

OLIVE: How different did you feel in that first game compared to Thursday night against Pittsburgh? Do you feel like you've made the transition from a guy simply achieving his dream of an NHL debut to looking at this like an everyday sort of thing?

BROWN: Honestly, kind of. You start to settle in. Day by day, you start to feel a little more comfortable. The first game I had a lot of jitters. I was pretty nervous playing in that game. But I just think that every period, every shift, you kind of settle in a little more and more. So, yeah, yesterday I felt pretty comfortable.

OLIVE: You talk about your day-to-day routine. As a rookie, are you still living out of your suitcase a little bit?

BROWN: A hotel and a rental car. I've tried to unpack a little bit at the hotel to make it feel a little more like home. That's part of it. I've done it before. I'm used to that now. I mean, you still get to come down here to South Florida, which is pretty fun.

OLIVE: You were teammates at one point or another with MacKenzie Weegar, Ian McCoshen and Mike Matheson during your time in the AHL. How much has it helped your transition having those familiar faces on the blue line here in Florida?

BROWN: For sure. It's always nice having a couple buddies from the AHL or camps. I've been with the organization for a long time. Even the other guys, we've been drafted and coming to camps for a long time. It's always nice to have a couple familiar faces to help you settle in.

OLIVE: How would you sum up your overall journey from being a sixth-round pick in 2013 to making your NHL debut in 2019?

BROWN: Honestly, I went from not being sure if I would even get drafted to getting drafted here in the sixth-round, which obviously at the team was a big accomplishment for me. I was pretty pumped about that. As the years go on, you never really know. Am I going to sign? Am I eventually going to live out my dream of playing in the NHL? I kind of kept grinding. My first year pro after I eventually did sign, I went to the ECHL for most of that season, up and down. You've just got to keep working every day. You've got to get a little bit better every day. That was my mindset. Well, it's always been my mindset, but definitely during these last couple years. It's worked out so far.

OLIVE: You've already gotten a few NHL firsts out of the way, including your first fight. What was it like to drop the gloves with Brendan Dillon, who is also 6-foot-4, when the San Jose Sharks came to town on Jan. 21?

BROWN: He's a tough customer, I know that. I just wanted to show another aspect of what I can bring, whether it's sticking up for teammates or just kind of trying to shift momentum by playing that bigger, tougher, grittier style. That was definitely pretty cool. It was fun.

Watch: Youtube Video

OLIVE: As a defensive defenseman, how would you define a "good game" for yourself?

BROWN: Usually just even or better is my goal every night. Hopefully a couple hits on the stat sheet afterwards and hopefully the penalty kill is 100 percent. Like you said, you're not going to see my name and see two goals, one assist or anything like that.

OLIVE: That being said, how much are you looking forward to that first NHL goal?

BROWN: It's definitely in the back of my head a little bit. I've just got to keep shooting the puck, I guess. I'll take my chances when they're there, and hopefully one of them will eventually go in.

OLIVE: With two months left in the regular season, how are you approaching the long road ahead as you look to stick with the Panthers moving forward?

BROWN: You can't get overwhelmed with the schedule. It's a little different in the AHL, where we usually have the whole week off and then a three-in-three weekend. Here, it seems like you're playing every other day. I just think you've got to take it day by day and just kind of get ready for the next team coming in but don't overthink it. Just keep working in practice and getting better.

OLIVE: You knew both Bob Boughner and Paul McFarland long before you ever put on a Panthers jersey. How much has that familiarity with the coaches helped you this season?

BROWN: That's honestly been a huge part of my success. Like you said, I know Farly from junior. I met Boogey before through my old head coach D.J. Smith. They're very close. That kind of comfortability, playing a similar style that I was used to in junior. I know what they like and how to play for guys like that. It's definitely been a huge part of my transition.

OLIVE: Now, this last one is sort of a deep cut. Looking back at all of the development camps you attended over the years, I remember you always had a Marlins hat on. What drew you to the Marlins and have you seen any of their rebranded hats for this season?

BROWN: I have actually. I think I should get one. I haven't seen the batting practice hat yet, but I heard it's pretty cool. Maybe I'll grab that one. I really liked the colors. It was something different. We went to a game at Marlins Park, which was pretty cool. I bought the hat when I was there, and I just kept bringing it back down with me to development camp every summer. I do have to say I am a Jays fan though…

OLIVE: But they're in a different league than the Marlins.

BROWN: Exactly.

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