Dustin Brown is a rising hockey star. In his third OHL season with the Guelph Storm, Dustin is looking to break through with a dominant year and emerge as one of the scoring leaders in the league. A two-time Scholastic Player of the year (an award presented to the OHL player best combining a high standard of play and academic excellence), Brown is touted by some scouts as a potential top-5 pick in the upcoming NHL draft.
Born in Ithaca, New York, Brown is a centerman with an impressive array of skills. Dustin is a creative scoring forward who plays well in his own end and doesn’t shy away from physical play. Brown is a feel-good story of the draft class, as well. Despite being a lesser known prospect when drafted by the Storm, Brown drew raves from scouts last year by scoring 32 goals in the first 35 games. Finishing with 41 goals on the year, Dustin expects bigger and better things for himself this season. Jake Dole caught up with Brown after Guelph’s recent match.
Hockey Future: You’re off to a nice start to the season (7 goals, 18 points in 11 games). How does that feel?
Dustin Brown: It feels pretty good. It is important to get points, but as a team we are a game below .500, so it is kind of from a team standpoint. I’d much rather have a few less points with us being a bit higher in the standings. So, hopefully we can pick things up in the next few games and get back on track.
HF: You had an excellent sophomore season last year. To what would you attribute your success?
DB: Certainly the experience I got in my first year. Not every player gets the opportunity to play much in their first year, but my coach gave me the opportunity to play pretty much on every third shift. The first year of experience provided me with a load of confidence and I credit this as a turning point for me so far in the OHL.
HF: As a 2003 draft-eligible player, are you excited about the opportunity?
DB: I am excited – It is almost a year away. Right now I just try to focus on the little things, because you can=t worry about that too much, you know. You don=t want to be thinking about that when there are so many other things to worry about. I just want to improve on the weaknesses that I have and be the best I can be come draft day.
HF: What do you feel you need to do differently this year in order to take the next step in your hockey career?
DB: I think that I need to physically get bigger and stronger this year. On the ice, I need to do the little things, like checking along the boards, and stuff like that. There is always room to improve in all areas, but these are the few I can think of.
HF: Do you feel you’ve taken on more of a leadership role this year (with Guelph)?
DB: Oh, yeah. If you look at my original team, there are, like, 5 players left from it. Maybe it’s not wearing the C or the A, but maybe being the go-to guy on the ice and, from that standpoint, I think that I am leading my team. We have some great locker-room leaders on our team, but I think that I mainly lead on the ice.
HF: With which linemate would you say you’ve had the most chemistry?
DB: Surprisingly most teams have their own clicks, but on this team it kind of varies from night to night… Me and (Martin St Pierre) have been together as the only consistent duo, I guess. We’ve had many people playing together, but we have been playing together for three years. This has been probably the most consistent line since I’ve been here.
HF: Your assists-per-game have gone up thus far this year. Would you say you’re passing the puck more?
DB: I think that I am getting more chances to pass more. Last year I came in with no one really expecting me to do what I did and now (opposing checkers) know me better which opens up more room for other guys and that allows me to pass the puck. Two guys come for me and somebody is wide open. So I think that now I am looking to pass more, because I expect more guys right on me when I get the puck.
HF: Who has been the biggest hockey influence on you in your days in Guelph so far?
DB: Since growing up, my parents obviously – they have always been there. But for the past 3 years, it’s been (Guelph Storm) coach Jeff Jackson. He’s been helping me with the little ins and outs of the game, not just on the ice but off-ice as well. He is a very good coach and I appreciate what he does for me and the other guys in the locker room.
HF: Prior to being drafted in 2000, what made you decide to play in the OHL as opposed to, say, college?
DB: We (Dustin and his parents) decided the night before the draft. But we were thinking about it probably as far as 3 weeks prior to the draft. It was mainly based on my education and what I’d gotten contract-wise. Once I got drafted, we took care of the contract and everything came through and my education was taken care of.
HF: How do you ensure that you stay in shape as a hockey player?
DB: It’s a bit of everything. My coach has me working hard and working out twice a week. That is important to maintain strength, and I eat healthy, you know, all the food. It’s all about being ready and training yourself and preparing yourself for every game. Physically, it’s a demanding season and you’ve got to be ready for it.
HF: What is your ultimate goal to accomplish in your hockey career?
DB: Bottom line is that I want to be a player. Have an NHL career. That is the ultimate goal for, I think, everyone who plays this game. So, time will tell and I will see. I have to work hard here for the next few years and see where I can get.
HF: Is there an NHL player whom you emulate?
DB: Well, I can’t say. It’s hard to compare yourself with someone of that caliber. They’re obviously good.
HF: How about just a favorite NHL player?
DB: I do have a favorite NHL player – that’s (Peter) Forsberg. Some people say that I play like Bill Guerin. But it=s hard to say. They’re very good players.
HF: Do you have a pre-game routine?
DB: Before the game, I just stick to myself and try to focus on the game. On the ice, I like to work on my hands, my feet and my legs – try to get them going and warmed up. That’s pretty much it for pre-game rituals.
HF: More than a year ago you were a 2nd rounder in the OHL draft and now you’re being touted as a potential top-10 pick in the NHL draft. Do you feel you’ve beaten the odds in some way?
DB: From my standpoint? No. From other standpoints, yes. I always knew I could play this well, it was just a matter of proving it to other people. So, from a personal standpoint, it is not a big surprise. But with other people… No one even knew about me at the (OHL) draft and most teams got a little bit surprised. But I expected this of myself.
HF: If you weren’t a hockey player, which profession do you think you’d have chosen?
DB: Probably something to do with children. Maybe a teacher… Maybe a guidance counselor. Definitely working with children.