First, we need to define what a top-six forward is. One way is to look up the NHL leader boards for scoring, set the cutoff at the 180th player, and declare that having 32 points makes you a top-six forward. Or we can use time on ice, which sets the mark at 15:55 of ice time per game. Brouwer clears both hurdles with 33 points (18 goals and 15 assists) and 17:10 per game, but just barely.

Some of us stat geeks use a fancy stat like even-strength points per 60 minutes with the breakpoint at 1.80 ESP/60 — this levels the playing field among those who don't get as much time with the man advantage as others might. Brouwer posted a 1.44 ESP/60 in 2011-12, just shy of his career best of 1.47 in 2009-10, when he scored 22 goals during the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup-winning season.

See? It isn't easy to pin down. But no matter what your definition is of a top-six forward, what is relevant is how Brouwer produces in the future. Using similar players to Brouwer in age, experience and production shows us what we can expect from him between the ages of 27 through 30.

AgeGPGoalsAssistsPointsBrouwer’s cap hit

It is possible Brouwer gets some puck luck like he did in 2009-10, when he tied for the fourth-best shooting percentage in the league at 19 percent. It is also possible that playing in a more offense-oriented system under new Coach Adam Oates will boost his scoring, but Brouwer did play on the league's fourth-best power-play unit with the Blackhawks and only managed seven goals with that unit.

Defensively, most of Brouwer's value comes in the form of hitting. He was credited with 247 of them last season, good for ninth in the league. Driving puck possession, on the other hand, is not one of his strong suits. His most frequent linemates — two legitimate top liners and two fourth-line grinders — all saw better puck possession (Corsi percentage) when they weren't playing with Brouwer than when they were.

Disagree? Give us your take in the comments.

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