Selected in the sixth round (152nd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers, D Josh Brown has continued his development with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. On May 15, Brown and the Generals defeated the Erie Otters in the fifth game of the OHL Championship series to win the franchise’s 13th J. Ross Robertson Cup and secure a Memorial Cup Tournament berth.
“Josh had set high goals for both himself and his team upon returning to the Oshawa Generals,” said Panthers Director of Scouting, Scott Luce. “We are very happy and pleased for him that his goals were achieved. We wish him good luck in the upcoming Memorial Cup.”
Signed in April by Florida to his first professional contract, Brown has had a strong year in the OHL recording junior career-bests in goals (4), assists (17), points (21), penalty minutes (92) and plus/minus (+49). In the Championship clinching game, Brown recorded an assist and a +4 rating to help the Generals secure the Robertson Cup.
“His overall development as a prospect improved each season after we selected him in the 2013 Draft,” said Luce. “Adding a player of his ability and presence will only increase the depth of our organization. Josh understands what his identity is as a player and plays well within that identity. His stat line in the OHL Championship clinching game speaks volumes about his potential upside.”
FloridaPanthers.com recently caught up with Brown to talk about his OHL Championship, the Memorial Cup, Hockey heroes and more.
From an individual standpoint, you’ve had a career year with the Generals this season. What do you attribute to your growth as a player this season in particular?
Brown: Honestly, I had the best off-season training of my life. I came in the best shape I’ve ever been in, so I have to give my trainer at PFP in London (Brent McKenzie) a little shout out for that. Honestly, other than that I think our team has been great this year. I think everyone contributed and bought in and that ultimately helped me have my own personal success. I mean, I was playing with a guy like Mitch Vande Sompel (2015 Draft Prospect), which is why I think I got more points than I normally do, because he’s a pretty offensive guy himself and I think my plus/minus was pretty good because I was playing with guys like Will Petschenig and Dakota Mermis so I have to give a lot of credit to all the defensemen that I played with or played around me this year.
Winning the OHL Championship and earning a Memorial Cup tournament berth, it’s really been an exciting year for the Generals. On a personal level what does it mean to you to accomplish these feats? Especially as the team’s Captain?
Brown: It’s a huge honor for me obviously. Every kid when you’re growing up, you want to win a Stanley Cup, but first you want to win your league and hopefully the Memorial Cup. For me it’s huge, it’s a dream come true. For the same time I’ve been living in the Oshawa area for five years now and it’s great to get a championship back in this city. It’s fallen on hard times, it’s a blue collar town. I think a lot people rallied with the team and it was really special to see in the playoffs.
Being the team Captain and one of the more veteran players on the club, what was it like to be tasked with shutting down some of the league’s top players night in and night out? This includes, most recently, (Top 2015 Draft Prospect) Connor McDavid.
Brown: At the start of the year when I first came back that’s what my coach told me, that it was going to be my job. All year I was playing against the top lines in practice and trying to get better day in and day out.
It was definitely a huge accomplishment, it was one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever had to do, shutting down Connor McDavid, a player like that. He’s the best player in the world right now, I think for our age group. I believe he’ll be the first overall pick, so it was definitely pretty hard for me. Again, that being said I had guys all around me that helped me shut these [types of] players down all the time. It was pretty exciting to pull that off. Hard works ends up paying off.
Last month you signed your first pro contract with Florida. Take us through that whole experience of signing your first contract.
Brown: It was an unbelievable feeling when I got the call. Originally I told my agent that I wasn’t so sure that signing during the playoffs would be a good thing. I didn’t want it to be a distraction for me or my team or anything like that. I didn’t want it to seem like I was putting myself ahead of the team, but agent told me “Hey it looks like it’s going to happen”, so I said, “Okay I don’t really want to know about it until we are between rounds”. So after that first round when we beat out Peterborough, I believe we beat them on a Friday, got a call from him on Saturday saying, “Things are rolling, this is going to happen in the next couple of days”. It was a pretty exciting time, I believe he called me on the following Tuesday and said “The contract is coming your way, congratulations on all of your hard work, go ahead and sign it”. Obviously it was pretty big for me. My teammates and my family were really excited for me so it was just a really fun time.
Have you followed the Panthers this season?
Brown: I have. I keep a lot of tabs on them honestly, being the most improved team in the NHL that was pretty impressive. I was trying to watch games whenever I could. When they played home games in Florida I didn’t get a lot of reception for those ones. But every time they were in town playing Toronto or any time I could I’d watch them on TV.
Who were some of your favorite players growing up? Do you try to model your game after them?
Brown: My favorite player growing up was Paul Kariya, when he was the Captain of the Ducks. Then I realized as I got older, I got bigger and me and him were basically polar opposite players. They called him Mighty Mouse and I was just this big forward at the time, eventually I’d turn into a defenseman. After that I think guys like Chris Pronger, Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara I really started to watch more and wanted to play like them. So those guys are all my favorite players.
I think Weber’s got a little more of an offensive edge to his game than me, but watching how these guys move out there, I’m about as big as them and these guys skate unbelievably well. Watching how they play in the corners, how they even conduct themselves as pros comes into play, so I pay attention to that.
The NHL Draft is now a month away in South Florida. What are your Draft Memories of being selected by Florida?
Brown: I went into the Draft not knowing what was going to happen. I was told I could be drafted anywhere from the third round to the seventh round and possibly not even being drafted at all. So I didn’t know what to expect going in. I was sitting there after the fifth round had ended and honestly in the back of my head, I was thinking, “Uh-oh, what’s going to happen here?” I was lucky enough to be the next pick right after that. My mom and everyone started freaking out right away. I gave her a big hug and went down there. The experience is something I don’t think you’ll ever forget. Just going up to that table and shaking everyone’s hand... Dale Tallon, the scouts, everyone involved in the team, it just kind of hits you all at once that you’ve been just drafted by a professional hockey team and your dream is that much closer. It’s pretty special.
What are some of your memories of camp with Florida?
Brown: It was a lot of fun. You get to see players from all different leagues. It’s pretty cool you get to meet some of the guys, you try to bond and I think I’ve made a couple of friends honestly through these camps so far. Development camp especially is a good time because all the College guys get to come too. It’s always a pretty good time and I look forward to the camps coming up.