The club stated they and GB international O’Connor could not agree to terms over next season, while Brown - who has struggled to gain the ice time he wished for, particularly over the past two seasons - has seen his request to be released granted.
Head coach Aaron Fox said: “We’ve agreed to Kieran’s request. We wish him the best of luck moving forward and hope his career develops in the right direction.”
For Brown, his departure marks the end of a frustrating period at the club, particularly given how his career at the club began when he found himself alongside Liam Kirk and Cole Shudra on the apprentice scheme that had been introduced by former head coach Paul Thompson.
Kirk went on to become the first English-trained player to be picked in the NHL Draft when selected in the seventh round by the Arizona Coyotes back in 2018. Some believed Brown would follow in Kirk’s footsteps but, Thompson’s exit early in the 2018-19 season proved a serious dent to Brown’s hopes.
Tom Barrasso came in with the strict remit of turning the Steelers’ season around and, despite claiming he shared the same vision as his predecessor in terms of youth development, Brown, along with fellow apprentice Jordan Griffin never really got a look in.
Brown returned for a third year last summer hopeful of increasing his ice time under Fox, but again found himself sidelined and sent down to Sheffield Steeldogs in the new NIHL National league.
His season was cut short by a wrist injury in January, adding to his frustration and he now feels his career needs to develop elsewhere.
“I’m looking for a new challenge,” said Brown. “I haven’t been given the opportunities I would have liked with the Steelers in the Elite League, but I want to continue to progress.
“The practice sessions and being alongside NHLers is obviously great and I’ve learned a lot during my time there.
“I think with Thommo going, it minimised my ice time even more. His departure hampered my development 100 per cent, certainly in that second season there for me.
“When Thommo was there, he always gave you a chance, but once he’d gone it seemed to go downhill from there.”
It’s not clear where Brown will play his next hockey, the current uncertainty over when next season will start due to the coronavirus pandemic not helping anyone involved in the sport, from the decision-makers at the top down to the players looking to secure a 2020-21 roster spot.
Another Elite League club could well come in for Brown, while he may fancy continuing his development with another season or two of NIHL National hockey.
That, clearly, will not be in a Steeldogs’ shirt, with the Steelers also announcing on Thursday morning that Cole Shudra and Alex Graham will be on two-way deals with Ben Morgan’s team next season.
Leeds Chiefs may be another possible destination for Brown given it is the team nearest to his hometown of Bradford but, wherever he ends up, the 19-year-old just wants to be logging regular minutes again.
“It was very tough to get the ice time and when the Steelers are winning it’s still tough,” added Brown. “When you are sitting on the bench all night, you’re just not in the game and that is totally different to what I’ve been used to all of my career. That’s a big reason as to why I wanted a change.
“That’s what was good at the Steeldogs last season. I know it is not the same standard as the Steelers but, with the amount of time you’re on the ice, you learn a lot of things.
“As a player, I believe you learn a lot more from being out there playing rather than sitting on the bench.
“You’ve got to be out there to learn different things, to experience different things - in order to make yourself a better player.”
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