Thursday, March 29, 2012

JT Brown Signs With Tampa Bay

You've probably heard, but congratulations to UMD sophomore forward JT Brown, who inked a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday.

Here is the official announcement from the club.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward J.T. Brown to a two-year contract that runs through the 2012-13 season, Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

“We are pleased to announce JT’s signing with the Lightning this evening,” said Yzerman. “He has all the top characteristics we look for in a player, including high skill and compete levels. We’re glad he chose to play for the Lightning and we look forward to getting him in the lineup as quickly as possible.”

Brown, 21, played in 39 games with the University of Minnesota-Duluth this season, recording 24 goals and 47 points to go along with 59 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward ranked first on Minnesota-Duluth in goals and third in points. Brown ranked tied for sixth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) in points. The sophomore was also named to the All-WCHA First Team this season.

“I am excited about this opportunity to come to Tampa Bay and play for the Lightning,” said Brown. “I see the organization as a great fit for me and although I had a tough decision to make, I definitely feel it was the right one. I can’t wait to get started.”

The Burnsville, Minnesota native has skated in 81 career games with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs over the past two seasons, collecting 40 goals and 84 points to go along with 109 penalty minutes. Last season, Brown was a member of the Bulldogs team that captured the 2011 Frozen Four Championship, being named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Brown looks to join the Lightning later this week and he most likely will see action for the team this season. 

Sounds like Saturday's game against Winnipeg at Tampa Times Forum is the target for Brown's NHL debut.

A player of Brown's caliber doesn't come around very often, especially undrafted. He has game-breaking speed, tenacity, edge, and serious goal-scoring ability. Are there holes in his game? Sure. No one is perfect, and Brown has yet to truly harness all of his talents on a consistent basis.

But when a player who has this kind of talent is a free agent, it's hard to argue that he's making a mistake when he leaves school. This isn't a case of a player having one good season and striking while the proverbial iron is hot. Brown flew under the radar until the NCAA Frozen Four last year, and probably could have left after being named Most Outstanding Player of that tournament. Instead, he stayed, got better as a player, and helped UMD to the NCAA Tournament again this season.

Someone who has Brown's speed and skill set was bound to be coveted by teams at the next level. The only question about his transition to the NHL, in my view, will be his ability to keep an edge to his game while gaining better control of his emotions. I think he did a better job this year than last in terms of avoiding unnecessary penalties, but he still took a few (he actually had more penalty minutes as a sophomore than as a freshman). There is a fine line where making adjustments to one's truculence level negatively affects the overall package. The Lightning need to find a way to keep Brown from taking unnecessary penalties without taking all the emotion out of his game.

The reason for this is simple. JT Brown doesn't help the Tampa Bay Lightning one iota if he's sitting in the penalty box.

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