(Ed. Note: Another relic from our NHL All-Star Game trip, unearthed now that we can post the video. Thanks for the patience.)
The 2003 NHL Entry Draft class was ridiculously, preposterously, obscenely talented: Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Dion Phaneuf, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Getzlaf, Nathan Horton, Ryan Suter, Jeff Carter, Zach Parise, Nikolai Zherdev, Mike Richards, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Kesler and Dustin Brown all went within the first round.
Some of those players didn't make the jump to the NHL immediately, something Brown said has changed since he played 31 games as a rookie for the Los Angeles Kings in the season after he was drafted.
"A lot of that has to do with the salary cap system, and the opportunity is there for young guys to come into this League," said Brown, interviewed during all-star weekend in Montreal last month. "If you look at the YoungStars game, a lot of those guys are 20 and under. In my first year, there was maybe a handful of guys who were 18 and played right away. Now it seems like the opportunity is there for young guys to come in and play well."
Brown, 24, isn't exactly an elder statesman on the Kings -- not with warhorses like Derek Armstrong and Sean O'Donnell on the roster -- but he is the captain, symbolic of the generational core of this year's team, as no less than 15 players are age 25 or younger on the L.A. roster. He's also a father, to a toddler. In other words, he's maturing on and off the ice, right when the Kings need it most.
Rich Hammond, a Kings beat writer for the LA Daily News, noted that maturation before Brown was given the captaincy to start the season:
I consider Brown to be a really interesting story on the Kings. He arrived at age 18 and basically sat in the corner and didn't say anything. Over the last five years he has really evolved, not only as a player but as a man and a teammate. It's no coincidence that his emergence, in both areas, coincided with the departure of Sean Avery, who really was a miserable teammate to Brown in particular.
Hammond asked Brown about being a leader prior to his getting the 'C':
Question: Do you think about what it would mean to be a team captain?
BROWN: "It's something that I would be thrilled about. It's a challenge, with such a young team, and I feel I would do good in that role. I think I have the respect of everyone in the room, which wasn't maybe the case last year. I think that's just one of those things that comes with time. I had conversations with (Scott Thornton) about it last year. He was at the other end of the spectrum. He had all the respect in the world, from all the players, but not a lot of ice time. I was at the other end of the spectrum, where I had tons of ice time but I kind of had to gain the respect of everyone in the room. I think I did that last year. I think it's something that obviously is an honor, if it does happen, and something that I'd be real excited about, especially with this team we have here. I think being a leader of this team would be not only fun but also, at the same time, challenging."
One way Brown has led is by clicking with Kyle Calder and Jarret Stoll to form one of the most explosive lines in the conference recently. Nicknamed The CBS Line -- ironic, considering Calder and Brown's adventures on "The Price Is Right" this season -- it combined for 23 points in five games entering last night's action. Brown is tied with Anze Kopitar for the team lead in points (38) and is second on the team in goals (20).
While others in his stellar draft class already have Stanley Cup rings, Brown is seeking his first playoff appearance in the NHL. He's a big reason why the Kings, some would say miraculously, are only four points out of a playoff berth through 49 games.
Brown's maturing as a leader as his team matures into a contender; his patience, it seems, is paying off.
That patience was on full display, by the way, when Brown answered a few of our dopey questions at the all-star game. Beginning with him telling us that meeting Drew Carey was the coolest thing about being on "The Price Is Right." Before he changed his mind: