Tue Jan 28 01:50am EST
It's like Connor Brown has broken the game.
The past four scoring races in the Ontario Hockey League have been decided by a total of three points. Two seasons ago, it took until the final weekend of the regular season before an OHL player hit a hundred as the Sudbury Wolves' Michael Sgarbossa nosed out the Ottawa 67's Tyler Toffoli 102-100.
Brown, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect and captain of the contending Erie Otters, got his 100th point of the season in just the his (and his team's) 48th game on Monday.
It doesn't take Justin Azevedo, Corey Locke or Rob Schremp to know junior hockey statistics should always be taken "with a grain of salt."
Brown will answer what this means with his further development next season, when he presumably moves up to the Leafs AHL affiliate. In the here and now, it's best to enjoy whatever numbers come from this seemingly robotic stats producer, who has a 15-point lead over his centre, Vancouver Canucks prospect Dane Fox, in the scoring race, and a 27-point gap over anyone who doesn't wear the Otters' tricolor.
That hasn't happened much recently in the OHL. John Tavares of Team Canada and New York Islanders fame was the last player to win the scoring crown by a double digit margin, coming in 10 clear of Chris Terry in 2009. Schremp won by 15 over London Knights teammate David Bolland in 2006, and the fact Bolland was runner-up to Schremp is probably a metaphor for something about life.
Could anyone have seen this coming? Probably not. Brown had a respectable 28-goal, 69-point sophomore year with Erie last season, when he was coming off being drafted No. 156 overall by Toronto in 2012. During his draft year, he posted 25 and 53 for a team that was outscored by a factor of two over the course of the season (335-167).
Hindsight being 20/20, it's worth noting that in the lead-up to the draft, Brown mentioned to BTN that his point of emphasis going into his 18-year-old year was going to be "getting more skilled defensively." The Otters were still leaky last season, but he finished at minus-11 after being minus-72 as a rookie on a porous team. Better defence leads to to offence, correct?
The right wing also credited then-Otters coach Robbie Ftorek for "(teaching) me how to score around the net," which Brown is doing as well as anybody these days.
The Otters went from a veteran coach in Ftorek to a young one with Kris Knoblauch midway through 2012-13. Their nucleus came of age — McDavid moving into his 16-year-old year; Fox finally putting together a healthy season, Washington Capitals first-rounder André Burakovsky coming in to hone his game in North America; complementary players Michael Curtis and Brendan Gaunce fitting in well, and so on. Erie's offensive-zone time is markedly better than it was in the prior two years.
Scoring also jumped up in the OHL, from 6.63 goals per game last season to 6.97 with the regular season now 70 per cent completed. That's brought a lot more offence into the league, but no one else has been as opportunistic as the 19-year-old Brown. His year started auspiciously with a breakaway goal on opening night in Guelph.
And it's gone on like this. Seven games with at least four points.
10 multi-goal games, including three hat tricks.
Not all of which has come against soft competition, since Brown blistered in three goals on Sunday against Oshawa, which leads the Eastern Conference.
There might be some regression, so it's too early to know whether Brown will be the first OHLer to average two points per contest since Patrick Kane's one-and-done year with the 2006-07 London Knights. It would take 36 points in 20 games, although Erie would probably like to rest its frontline players for the start of the playoffs. Brown still has a pair of games apiece left against stragglers Niagara, Kitchener and Owen Sound, whom's he torched for a combined 27 points in 12 games.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.