Buzzing The Net

Toronto Maple Leafs pick Connor Brown tricks Owen Sound: Wednesday’s 3 Stars

Connor Brown had his fourth OHL hat trick on Wednesday (OHL Images)

No. 1 star: Connor Brown, Erie Otters (OHL)

Brown has six goals in as many games since Christmas, after his hat-trick goal with 34.7 seconds left helped the improving Otters top the Owen Sound Attack 4-3. The Leafs draft choice got open on the power play, giving linemate Connor McDavid (2A) just enough of a passing lane for a centring feed. Brown, who has 23 goals in 41 games despite 10- and six-game droughts, came up big as the Otters worked to make up for a sloppy start. The 18-year-old scored twice during a wild first period that ended in a 3-3 tie and with goalie Oscar Dansk getting hooked after giving up three goals on 11 shots. Brown's first came on a tip-in, and then he showed off a great shot by beating the Attack's Brandon Hope blocker side.

No. 2 star: Reid Duke, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

A lot of 16-year-olds come back changed young men after playing in the World Under-17 Challenge. Try this on for size: Duke went the entire first half of the season without a goal, but has now had successive two-goal efforts since returning from Team Pacific. The young Calgarian helped the 'Canes start well in their 7-4 win over the Vancouver Giants by scoring 72 seconds into the game off a setup from fellow rookie Ryan Pilon. Duke picked up a power-play assist later in the frame and then scored a beauty short-handed goal. It might not be the only time he gets some Three Stars loves in the second half of the season.

No. 3 star: Étienne Boutet, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

The overage defenceman scored a natural hat trick in fewer than five minutes, helping the 'Piques pound the woefully undermanned Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The Eagles were ripe for the taking, suggesting it's not like Gatineau absolutely needed a hat trick effort from Boutet (3G-1A, +4), a recent addition from the Rimouski Océanic. But hey, Boutet has been a steady, workaday defenceman in the Q for five seasons, so it just feels wrong to snub him on his career night.

Gatineau goalie Robert Steeves had his first shutout since returning from a major knee injury, making 22 saves.

Honourable mention: Justin Kea, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

Kea (2G-1A, +2) set up Nick Moutrey for the winner with 4:52 left to help Saginaw beat Plymouth 6-5. The Buffalo Sabres third-rounder also scored twice in the first period, helping Saginaw take an early lead in what turned out to be the latest slugfest between the state rivals. The Spirit did not have U.S. world junior gold medallist Vincent Trocheck back in the lineup, but the 18-year-old Kea helped make sure they had enough offence. Plymouth's budding 17-year-old star Matt Mistele (2G-2A, +1) also had a big night.

Honourable mention: Loïk Poudrier, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

Poudrier had a career-high four points (1G-3A, +2) to lead the Foreurs to a 5-1 divisional win over Drummondville. The overage centre typically hasn't been counted on for major scoring during his career, but the Thetford Mines, Que., product has done so more often since moving close to home. It was his third multi-point effort in his past four games with his new team.

Honourable mention: Mac Carruth, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Carruth set the the Winterhawks club record for career wins in fine style with a 23-save shutout in a 3-0 decision over Prince George. The goose egg gave the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick 106 wins with the Winterhawks. Ty Rattie assisted on the first two Portland goals.

Potent notables — Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie stopped 34-of-35 shots in a 3-1 win at Kamloops ... Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder Mark McNeill (1G-1A, +2) was the game's first star in Prince Albert's win over Regina ... Goalie Eric Williams kicked out 30-of-31 shots in Spokane's win over Seattle ... Calgary's Brady Brassart and Lethbridge's Macoy Erkamps were each plus-5 ... In the OHL, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Boone Jenner had both goals to help Oshawa beat Ottawa 2-0 in his return from the world junior ... In the QMJHL, Darcy Ashley (1G-3A, +4) and Luca Ciampini (also 1G-3A, +4) helped Halifax hammer Acadie-Bathurst ... Baie-Comeau's Francis Desrosiers made 25 saves to shade Sherbrooke 4-3 in his debut with the Drakkar.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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