At only 5 foot 7 inches and 150 pounds, Cam Brown is always one of the smaller players on the ice.
He's about half a foot shorter than the average hockey player, and two inches shorter than any other player on the Wheeling roster. And yet, he's thriving.
Brown, 24, is in his first professional season after spending four years at the University of Maine, serving as captain in his senior season. He's fourth on the Nailers in scoring, and leads all ECHL rookies in assists with 20 in his 27 games.
A self-proclaimed "lil guy" on his social media profiles, Brown doesn't see his size as a disadvantage at all.
"As crazy as this may sound," he told me, "I'd like to think of it as an advantage out there. I'm a little guy out there, and I can fit and sneak around in maybe spots where other people can't. I think maybe I'm a little quicker because I'm a smaller player, and I think that helps me out there."
Brown looks up to players like Viktor Arvidsson, Brendan Gallagher, and Mats Zuccarello in the NHL, "the little guys," as he puts it. Like some other players of his stature, his speed is one of his strengths. With the style of play the Penguins employ throughout the system, he's in the right place.
"I think we have a really fast team," he said. "We're quick in transition, I would say we have a similar style of play (with Pittsburgh). I think that suits me well."
In addition to setting up his teammates, Brown has four goals of his own this season. He uses his speed to his advantage, and has a shot that just looks effortless:
One of the main reasons he chose to sign with the Nailers out of college was the culture that he says the coaches and front office cultivate in Wheeling. He says that coach Jeff Christian preaches "getting better every single day, individually and as a team," and that the communication Wheeling maintains with Pittsburgh's front office is important to him.
The coaches are high on him, as well.
"Cam is a gritty playmaking forward with lots of speed, who can grind, and will work hard down low," Christian said in a press release. "He served as team captain at Maine, he's really sharp, and mature as well."
Brown thinks that Wheeling is a good "stepping stone" for his career. Everyone around the league has taken notice of the way Pittsburgh develops their young players, and how they have played prominent roles during the last two Stanley Cup runs.
One of those players is Brown's former USHL teammate Jake Guentzel. They only played together for a few months in Sioux City, but Brown remembers him well.
"He was obviously a great teammate, a great person, and obviously an unbelievable player as well," he said. "Even at that age."
With all of his success, he's not thinking of an AHL callup just yet.
"It's something you need to just not worry about," he said. "Just play your game and see what happens."
"Moving up would be great and everything, but I just think I'm trying to make a name for myself, starting here. We'll see what happens."
MORE FROM WHEELING
• Dec. 12: vs. Indy, 3-2 win
• Dec. 15: at Reading, 4-0 loss
• Dec. 16: at Reading, 4-2 win
• Freddie Tiffels, Brown, and Troy Josephs scored for the Nailers on Tuesday. With goaltender Colin Stevens still out with an injury, Adam Morrison was huge in net for the Nailers with 35 saves on 37 shots to earn his second win of the season.
• The Nailers would not be so lucky on Friday. Morrison remained steady in net, making 34 saves on 38 shots, but the Nailers were unable to solve Reading's Mark Dekanich, who managed to stop all 50 of Wheeling's shots.
• It was Wheeling's goalie who was the star of the show the following night. Will King, signed to an emergency contract after Stevens' injury, made his first start since returning. His 37 saves on 39 shots were enough to earn him first star of the game. Kevin Schulze, Reid Gardiner, and Josephs scored for Wheeling, and Cody Wydo's empty netter sealed the win.
• Jarrett Burton and Jeff Taylor were recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday. In five games with Wheeling, Burton had two goals and one assist. Taylor had two goals and four assists in 14 games.
• The Nailers traded forward Johnny Daniels to the Wichita Thunder on Monday in exchange for future considerations. While he only had one assist in seven games this season, Daniels is perhaps best known for his feat last season when he scored a natural hat trick in only 57 seconds:
— ECHL (@ECHL) March 12, 2017
• Cam Brown's goal on Tuesday was the 6,000th goal in Nailers history.
• The Nailers' record of 15-10-2-0 places them second in the North Division. They trail the Manchester Monarchs by two points.
• Up next: The Nailers host the division rival Brampton Beast (12-10-1-2) Friday and Saturday this week.
GOALS OF THE WEEK
Troy Josephs' two goals this week earn the honors. Josephs, the Penguins' seventh-round pick in 2013, is in his first professional season:
SAVE OF THE WEEK
Adam Morrison made this sprawling save against Indy:
WHEELING FUN THING
Brown and Gardiner spent some time with the Children's Home of Wheeling, an organization that provides temporary housing and treatment to young boys with adjustment difficulties:
Cam Brown and Reid Gardiner visited the Children's Home of Wheeling to play basketball and football with the kids. pic.twitter.com/JiCMUcedRo
— Wheeling Nailers (@WheelingNailers) December 13, 2017
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