Kieran Brown may not be a name many NHL Draft followers have come across, but the 18-year-old has the potential to follow Liam Kirk’s footsteps as the next British player to be drafted into the NHL.
Brown, a native of Bradford, England, has caught international attention over the last few years thanks to a prolific scoring ability and an intriguing physicality to his game. He spent his earlier hockey years in the UK junior system playing for the Bradford Bulldogs, before making the jump across the pond to the Iowa Wild’s Bantam and Midget programs. Now, at the close of his second season back in the UK, Brown has attracted inquiries from international scouts and may be viewed as an option for teams willing to take a flyer on a talented- yet untested- prospect in the late rounds of the Draft.
“He’s a talented boy. Him and Kirky are different kinds of player - he plays with a bit more jam in his game, but he’s smart.” - Ex-Sheffield Steelers Head Coach Paul Thompson.
It has been a frustrating season for him, however. Contracted with the Sheffield Steelers of the EIHL (the UK’s premier professional men’s league), a coaching overhaul saw Brown cast down to the lower leagues for a significant portion of the year. This put a halt on his development and a dagger in his draft stock.
With 45 points in 23 games last season, it was clear he’d long ago solved all the lower, less-competitive UK leagues had to offer. Thus his 53 points in 20 games down in the NIHL went mostly unnoticed. When finally called back up to Sheffield, Brown was limited to very little ice time and struggled to get his game going on a troubled team, ending the season with zero points in 33 EIHL games.
Nevertheless, Brown possesses some incredibly attractive tools which were on full display in his international tournaments this year. Playing on the top line with Liam Kirk, Brown put up 4 goals and 3 assists in 5 games for Team GB at the U20 World Championships, helping the team to a bronze medal in Division IIA. Likewise, he also earned 7 pts in 5 games in the U18s as part of GB’s leadership group. If developed with enough care and attention (and finally awarded some ice time) he could be a handy prospect for an NHL team to have in their system.
Brown is a prototypical sniper. His shot is advanced, with a quick release that often catches goalies off guard, and he is more than willing to shoot from anywhere on the ice. Both his wrist shot and his heavy one-timer are near unfailingly accurate, making him especially deadly at the top of the circle on the powerplay. At just 161 lbs, Brown’s shot has the potential to get even better as he adds strength to his frame.
What really makes him such an effective player is his vision and creativity with the puck. He displays excellent awareness and has a sixth sense for the movements of his linemates. He regularly sends out accurate no-look passes, can connect with his teammates through the smallest of closing gaps, but also rarely forces the play. He’s adept at finding intelligent ways to move the puck up ice and seems to be just as creative a playmaker as he is a finisher. And boy, can this kid finish.
While not the typical stature for a power-forward, Brown has shown time and time again that he can battle with the best of them even when playing against men. He often plays bigger than his size, fearless in all situations, whether that’s setting up in front of the net to pounce on rebounds or fighting for possession with both body and stick in the corners. And while he’s definitely improved on taking needless penalties over the past year, Brown is definitely not afraid to make his presence known- and felt- out on the ice.
His speed is good- but it’s not great. There are concerns about whether this hinders him even at the EIHL level, which is becoming increasingly faster, but in the long run it should not pose much of a problem as he develops. Brown has a wide, balanced stride; increasing his lower body strength should go some way improving his pace.
His vision and offensive skills are so good that he might not have to rely on playing an overly physical game as he progresses- but it nonetheless seems to be an intrinsic part of how he operates. And while this pays off at a lower level, he may have a harder time against stronger, quicker opponents. At 5’10, 161 lbs, Brown needs to start packing on the muscle if he wants to have the same impact against tougher competition.
His anticipation and reads are good, and he is willing to backcheck and battle in the offensive zone, but there may be a question surrounding his overall effort defensively. In the D zone it can often seem like he’s just waiting for opportunities to transition back up ice, floating above the circles and looking for a pass. This should improve as he matures but remains a question mark for now.
After a tumultuous season, whether Brown has proven himself enough to be drafted this year is still up for debate. While he has played against men for the last two years, only 52 of those games have been against the highest level of UK competition. He’s raw, he’s untested, and he’s likely a few years away from professional hockey in somewhere like North America. But if you’re looking for offensive skill, an explosive shot, and deficiencies which can all be improved through time, then it may be worth taking a chance on this British youngster in the last couple of rounds.