From being named captain to having a career year offensively to earning an extended look in the NHL, it’s hard not to be impressed with the strides that Patrick Brown took this season.
On the leadership front, Brown continued to be recognized for his abilities. After serving as an alternate last season, the third-year-pro was again given the honor by the new coaching staff this year, then became the full-time captain when Derek Ryan and Matt Tennyson were recalled to Carolina.
That can be a big responsibility for someone still early on in their career, but Brown took the challenge head on, letting his play do the talking.
“I just try to lead by example,” he said. “We had a great leadership corps. Guys like [Patrick] Dwyer, [Kyle] Hagel, [Michael] Leighton, [Kris] Newbury, those are all guys that could have worn the C. They were really supportive and helpful. I just basically didn’t change my game at all, I just kept doing what I do and hoped the young guys followed.”
Brown’s elevated status wasn’t just an indictment of his demeanor off the ice, but a reflection of his continued progress on it as well, as the 25-year-old set a new career high with 28 points. He was featured all across the lineup, both in scoring and checking roles, something that didn’t faze the forward, but perhaps even meshed with his wide skill set.
“I’m a grinder type of player, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I need to be slotted in any specific spot,” said Brown. “I feel like one of my strengths is that I can play on any line. I’m a utility guy and I have a lot of different skills. I thought at the end of the year I clicked well with [Connor] Brickley and Nesty [Andrej Nestrasil] and [Brendan] Woods on that third or fourth line. It was a good year.”
As an undrafted prospect who totaled just 10 points as a rookie two seasons ago, Brown’s game has seen undeniable growth, with the forward crediting this year for a big chunk of it.
“I just had more confidence,” said Brown. “I worked on my skills every day. [Head coach] Ulf [Samuelsson] was great working with us on specific stuff after practice. As I grow and get older, my confidence comes and I can breathe with the puck and make more plays.”
Fans weren’t the only ones who noticed Brown’s growth, though. After logging seven NHL games in each of his first two season, the forward doubled his total with 14 contests this year for Carolina. As a player who can seamlessly plug into a fourth line role, Brown sees that as a step up for him to stick at the next level.
“I think that’s one of my skill sets, I’m a hard-working guy,” he said. “If they want to put me on the fourth line up there, that’s one of my goals. Whatever they need from me, that’s what I’m going to do. I love this organization and they treat me really well. I’d really like to play here again.”
With a specific area highlighted, Brown now heads into the summer looking to continue his upward trajectory.
“Just my skill at full speed,” said Brown of his main target this offseason. “Trying to do everything I do at a faster pace so that, when I do take that next step, I’m ready to go.”