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Off the Top of My Head: Connor Brown, Quotes from Jay Woodcroft, and Sports 1440

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Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
5 months ago
Coming off a knee injury and ACL surgery to repair the damage that kept him out of all but four games last season, Connor Brown couldn’t ask for a better situation to re-establish himself than playing alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl with the Edmonton Oilers.
Brown, 29, doesn’t know yet if he’ll be slotted in beside McDavid, with whom he spent two seasons playing with the Erie Otters in the OHL, or Draisaitl as part of a top-six mix that also includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Zach Hyman and Evander Kane, but that’s some high-end company to hang with on the road back.
Having played with McDavid and Hyman with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brown isn’t coming in cold with the Oilers and that helps. So does the fact that the buzz out of these captain’s skates leading into training camp is that Brown plays a lot like Hyman, who has blown away every expectation since arriving on a seven-year ticket to start the 2021-22 season. 
If Brown, who has seasons of 20 and 21 goals in the books, can bump up his game even close to the degree that Hyman has in Jay Woodcroft’s line-up, that’ll be a far bigger story than any reunion sidebars. Might Brown’s first year here be a career year?

READY TO GO

“I feel up to speed and I feel ready to go,” Brown told reporters after skating at Rogers Place Thursday. “There was obviously a lot of adversity this year. I learned a lot. It was a lot of hard work digging myself out of that hole, so I’m that much more grateful not only to be playing again, but to be able to play with this group.”
“He’s got a big motor to him,” said Draisaitl, who worked out with Brown this summer. “He seems like another Hyman-type player and obviously, he had a tough year last year, but he looks really good. I think we’re going to make sure that he feels comfortable and that he gets the time that he needs to get up and rolling.”
Nobody expects Brown to match the career-high 83 points Hyman produced last season because he won’t see near the playing time on the Oilers prolific power-play — Hyman scored 15-11-26 on the PP. That said, I bet Brown blows by the career-best 43 points he tallied with Ottawa in 2019-20 if his knee holds up.

KIDS THESE DAYS

Dec 27, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers left wing Dylan Holloway (55) against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
So, where do Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway fit into the Oilers line-up this season? With 69 games over parts of two seasons on his resume, is Broberg, 22, selected eighth overall in the 2019 Entry Draft, close to being a regular on the blueline after being limited to 12:36 of ice time per game last season?
And what about Holloway, 21, who got into 51 games last season, averaged 9:35 of ice time and scored 3-6-9? Win-now mode can be a test for young players trying to establish themselves. Woodcroft talked about both players this week.

COACH SAYS . . . 

“Our coaches have a strong belief in both players,” said Woodcroft. “There’s opportunity here. I think it’s going to be a competitive camp, but both those players see daylight in terms of their opportunity. What they do with that now is up to them. I think both of them had really good summers. We expect them to take a step here.
“Both are at that level now that I think we can see the beginning signs of what they will become. I think if you’re both of those players they want to know that there’s opportunity here. There is. I think both of them have put in the work required in the summertime. It’s up to them now to show us. They’re going to get every opportunity to do so.” 

TALKING SPORTS

The first week of Sports 1440 is in the books and despite some issues getting all of the tech running smoothly, the first four days of this huge undertaking by The Nation Network, Just A Game Productions, and Stingray were an absolute blast – at least from my side of the microphone on the Jason Gregor Show. 
I really enjoyed Ladi Smid and Eddie Steele co-hosting on the Kevin Karius Show. Fantasy Frenzy is must-listen-to information for those into fantasy sports. Allan Mitchell hasn’t missed a beat while making the switch back to where his radio career began. 
As for Gregor’s show, after nine years on the mic with him as a co-host on the old show, my first spot with him on Thursday felt just like old times. I missed the back-and-forth we developed over the years and I’m happy to be back. As an aside, I appreciate all the positive feedback from listeners on the chat line that day. 

WORTH REPEATING

“Yeah, it’s a weird feeling because I still feel pretty young and as you said, going into my 10th year here with one organization. Time just kind of flies by, but at the same time it’s obviously so much fun and I’ve had some great years. Yeah, just kind of flying by.”
  • Draisaitl, who will turn 28 on Oct. 27, about going into his 10th season with the Oilers.

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