Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Brian Lawton starred at Mount St. Charles Academy where he became the top-rated amateur player in North America. He represented the United States at the 1983 World Junior Championships and was the first overall pick by the Minnesota North Stars at that summer's NHL Entry Draft.
The first U.S. High School player chosedn first overall, Lawton was solid with 31 points as a rookie in 1983-84 and was a member of the United States team that competed at the 1984 Canada Cup later that fall. Lawton continued to play solidly, if not spectacularly, over the next three years. During the late 1980s, he bounced around the league, suiting up for the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Boston Bruins.
In 1991-92, Lawton scored 15 goals as a member of the expansion San Jose Sharks. Lawton retired after splitting the 1992-93 season between the Sharks and the IHL's Kansas City Blades and Cincinnati Cyclones.
Throughout his ten-year playing career, Lawton amassed 112 goals and 154 assists for 266 points in 483 NHL games.