BELLEVILLE — Logan Brown stayed on the ice Wednesday morning at the CAA Arena to do a little extra work at the end of the Belleville Senators’ skate.
Someday soon, the 21-year-old centre, one of the top prospects in the organization’s rebuild to get back to respectability, is hopeful the hard work will pay off.
After being among the last cuts at Ottawa’s training camp last month, Brown, who was selected No. 11 overall by the Senators in the 2011 NHL draft, admitted getting the news he was headed back to the club’s AHL affiliate in Belleville was tough to swallow at first, but now that he’s here he’s doing everything in his power to get to back to the NHL.
“I felt sorry for myself for a day, but you’ve got to get rid of that and you’ve just got to stay positive and keep working hard,” Brown said after the 65-minute skate. “If you stay positive, then positive things will happen … when I feel like I’m playing at my best I definitely feel like I’m capable of playing in the NHL, so I’ve just got to find my game and keep building on my game.”
Some debated whether Brown did enough in the club’s camp to remain in Ottawa, but those days are behind him and he arrived here with an eye toward getting back to the Senators as quickly as possible. General manager Pierre Dorion is confident that, down the road, the 6-6 Brown can be the club’s top centre.
As Dorion and coach D.J. Smith have both noted, they’d rather have Brown playing big minutes in Belleville until they feel he’s ready to play that kind of role in Ottawa, and that was what he was told when he was sent here.
“(The message) was just to force their hand to get back up (to Ottawa),” Brown said. “They wanted me to kind of take it as a challenge, to come here to be a dominant player at times to work my way back up there.”
If Brown is going to get back to the NHL, then he needs to have more nights like the one he had Saturday in Belleville’s 5-4 victory over the Binghamton Devils at home. Playing on a line with Drake Batherson and Nick Paul, Brown finished with a four-point effort (two goals and two assists) while also dominating in the faceoff circle at over 70 per cent.
The offensive success is good for Brown’s confidence, and with Paul called up to Ottawa on Monday it was winger Alex Formenton who skated on the left side Wednesday.
“We’re all pretty confident regardless, but you play hockey to score goals,” said Brown. “That’s the point of the game. We took a great step Saturday and really found our game. We’re just going to keep building off things like that.”
While Belleville coach Troy Mann knew Brown took the news of his demotion to the AHL hard at first, the two talked about coming up with a three-point plan to help him return to Ottawa, and that’s been the focus since he got back for his second pro campaign. The areas they’re working on have helped to give Brown focus when he gets to the rink.
First, Mann talked to Brown about winning one-on-one battles for the puck down low. Secondly, the Senators want to see improvement from him in the faceoff circle. The biggest one is working on Brown’s foot speed “so when he gets the puck at the defensive blueline it gives him the ability to create separation” with the opposition players tracking him.
The approach has paid dividends.
“Those are three things we’ve asked him to focus on,” Mann said. “We’ve got a plan in place on the ice and off to try to get better in those three (areas).
“I thought he looked fast Saturday night, and I know there’s a difference with the NHL, but he was winning battles and he was almost 72 per cent in the (faceoff) dot, and he had (four) points. I don’t know if you can ask much more from him in one game so we’ll how he progresses.”
Mann and Brown both know the organization isn’t sending him here permanently as long as he makes improvements.
That’s why Brown has arrived here with the right attitude to get back to the NHL. If he keeps playing the right way and doing the job, then the Senators won’t hesitate to bring him back.
“I feel like I’m ready, but understand I have to come down here and keep proving it,” said Brown. “That’s what I’m going to do.”
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