‘I see myself as a top penalty killer’

‘I see myself as a top penalty killer’

The Washington Capitals came into the 2022 offseason missing a huge part of their right-wing depth due to Tom Wilson’s absence via injury. The team was always likely to look for a forward piece this offseason that could fill-in near the top of their lineup and they got just that from the Ottawa Senators in the form of Connor Brown.

Brown, a veteran of seven NHL seasons, comes to DC after he was deemed expendable after the Senators signed Claude Giroux in free agency.

Brown spoke with the media on Tuesday about the move and what he believes he will bring to the table on the Caps.

“I kind of figured I was going to be traded, but I didn’t really know Washington was an option,” Brown said on Tuesday. “You just hear lots of stuff about different teams. It was a shock at first, but once it settled in, I’m so excited. I think my game will fit in well here. I’ve played against them for years. The way they play, I’m excited. I’m really excited to be a part of it.”

Trade rumors had been swirling around the 28-year-old winger for quite some time as it has been foregone conclusion in Ottawa that the two parties were likely never going to come to an agreement in terms of a contract extension. Brown’s current deal expires after this upcoming season. For a while, Brown was rumored to be off to the Edmonton Oilers but that never materialized despite heavy reporting and the Caps sent a 2024 second-round selection to obtain his services.

Brown played at all strengths for Ottawa and is a multi-time 20-goal scorer but he’s his play on the penalty kill that he thinks is his most attractive ability in the NHL. He finished as the Senators’ top forward in terms of shorthanded time on ice with 2:38 per game and top ten in the league overall in shorthanded points last season with four.

“I think maybe my biggest asset as a player is maybe my penalty killing. I think I see myself as a top penalty killer,” the Toronto native said. “I think that I’ll definitely help the penalty kill in a big way. I think that’s an important part. Every little thing. Defensively, as a forward, I think that I steal pucks. I can play tenacious. I consider myself to do a little bit of everything. I think I can help out the second unit and every little thing that I can do and I can bring, I’m going to try and bring it all. I can’t just pinpoint one there.

“Actually, when I played junior, I always thought I was a skilled forward and I still see myself as that, but I remember my junior coach telling me that I really need to hone in on being a good penalty killer, making that something I take pride in,” Brown added. “Ever since then I really have. I try to have a knock for stealing pucks. I really just enjoy penalty killing to. I think it’s just such a massive part of the game. It’s something I take pride in.”

Combined with Carl Hagelin’s uncertainty and the departure of fourth-line wing Johan Larsson, there were some penalty-killing minutes that needed to be filled. Only one player in the entire league over the past three seasons, former Cap Jay Beagle (2:49), has played on average more shorthanded ice time per game than Brown (2:42).

“It was important,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said Wednesday of getting a player that could fill that role. “In the same vein, our PK did well when Carl was out too. In the playoffs, we were really good. He is a legitimate first PK guy, Connor Brown is. He brings energy. He brings speed. He pressures the puck really well. He’ll get a lot of PK time for us. It’s a good addition to our PK with him in the lineup.”

In terms of his fit on the team at five-on-five, Brown is aware of the giant hole that Wilson has left on the right side of the team’s top line. The winger is no stranger to playing with superstars as he’s skated alongside both Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews in the past.

“I think it would be easy,” he said of playing with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. “There’s two of the biggest talents in the league for a long time. I’ve been on the other side of it. Obviously, it would be amazing to play with those two guys. This team’s got lots of good players up and down the lineup so I don’t think there’s a bad spot you can fall. I think I’ll have some time up there and throughout the lineup. When it comes to playing with those guys, they’re world-class players, fun to watch, and a lot of fun to play with.”

With his contract ending after the 2022-23 season, Brown could put himself into contention for a big deal come next offseason if he is able to produce on this veteran-laden Capitals team.

“I don’t know if it’s a prove-it year,” he said when asked about his future. “I think, six years in the league and I’ve been pretty consistent throughout my time especially over the last three years night-in, night-out, doing what I do. I’m looking at this year as an opportunity to win. I’m looking to get back into the playoffs. I want to play some meaningful hockey. More than anything, I’m just trying not to focus too internally on what my future holds and try to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

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