Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said Monday the team is expecting a significant bounce-back season from Connor Brown after acquiring the winger from the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this summer.
Brown was traded to the Senators along with Nikita Zaitsev and Michael Carcone on July for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a third-round draft pick. The 25-year-old scored just eight goals in 82 games with the Maple Leafs last season, but Dorion believes Brown can return to reaching the 20-goal mark in an increased role this season.
"As much as we’re excited to have Zaitsev in the trade, the guy we were after since the season ended was Connor Brown even before we hired (head coach) D.J. (Smith)" Dorion told Postmedia. "We just feel he was someone on a very skilled team that probably didn’t get the offensive looks he would have gotten on a lot of other teams in the NHL. He’s going to come here and we feel he’s going to get back to being the 20-goal scorer he was in his rookie year."
Brown's goal-scoring totals have dipped in each season since his breakout rookie year in 2016-17, when he posted a career-high 20 goals and 36 points. His time on ice with the Maple Leafs was down nearly two and a half minutes per game last season compared to his rookie year and he finished with eight goals and a career-high 21 assists.
Brown is one of several new additions to the Senators lineup along with Zaitsev, Artem Anisimov, Ron Hainsey and Tyler Ennis, all of whom will be playing under a first-time head coach in Smith. Dorion said Monday he expects the team to take a step forward this season after two seasons at the bottom of the NHL standings.
“Heading to camp I feel we’re a better team,” Dorion added. “First and foremost, I think the personnel changes that we made are more reflective to the type of team that we want to be.
“We have a lot of faith in coach D.J. Smith and the staff that he’s put together and, more importantly, the players will see a lot of things are going to be different. Our team is going to be so much fun to watch. Our attitude is going to be different and we feel that some of the maturity of some of our young players is really going to be seen this year.
“We know that [finishing] 30th and 31st the last two years is unacceptable and we know that we’re really going to take a big step forward this year.”