Adam Brooks has been one of the top players in the WHL for the past two seasons
Adam Brooks, known by some as “Prairie Jesus”, is a name that most Leafs fan have heard this year. The 20 year-old centreman from Winnipeg was selected in the 4th round, 92nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Draft. He has been an absolute stud for the Regina Pats of the WHL these past two seasons, posting 120 points in 2015-16 and 114 points this season with games still to be played. The road to being drafted was not easy for Brooks as he was passed over in the NHL Draft not once, but twice, seeing 512 players get their names called before his. It’s not that often that you see players selected in there 3rd year of draft eligibility, but that’s exactly what happened to Adam Brooks and he could prove to be quite the selection for the Leafs.
Coming out of Bantam, Brooks was a highly sought after player, putting up 90 points (53 goals, 37 assists) for the Winnipeg Hawks AAA club. He went on to be selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, 25th overall by the Regina Pats, the same round as Jayce Hawryluk (drafted 32nd by Florida in 2014) and Haydn Fleury (drafted 7th overall by Carolina in 2014). The following season, Brooks had a very solid year in Midget for the Winnipeg Thrashers AAA team. He helped lead Team Manitoba to a silver medal in the 2011 U16 Western Canada Challenge Cup posting 5 points in 4 games. He was also chosen to represent Team Canada at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, one of the top tournaments in the world for his age group. Adam Brooks had 7 points in 6 games, the 8th most points in the tournament. He outscored guys like Kasperi Kapanen and Jack Eichel in the tournament and was one of Canada’s most impressive players as they would go on to win the bronze medal.
Adam Brooks (#24) represented Canada at the 2012 Youth Olympic Games
The 2012-13 season saw Brooks make the move to the WHL for the Regina Pats. Many expected some of the offense to carryover for him his rookie, but he was only able to put up 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 55 games for the Pats. The next season was a big one for him as it was his draft year. Since he was known by many as a goal scorer, scouts expected him to produce some offense, maybe even be a big time scorer in the WHL. But he would be relegated to the 3rd and 4th lines as an “energy guy” by his coach Malcolm Cameron. His role did not allow him to produce much offense and his point totals would actually drop to 11 points in 60 games. When the 2014 NHL Draft rolled around, Brooks’ 1st year of draft eligibility, most NHL teams did not even consider drafting him. For most players in junior hockey, disappointing seasons in their draft year are the beginning of the end for their NHL hopes and dreams, but Adam Brooks stayed motivated.
The 2014-15 season, saw the Pats with a new man behind the bench, former head coach of the Jets and Senators, John Paddock. The new coach combined with his increased role as one of the team’s alternate captains saw Brooks’ numbers skyrocket. He became more relied upon for offense and he was the team’s leading scorer with 62 points (30 goals, 32 assists) in 64 games, almost tripling his combined point totals from the previous two years. He would be rated the 176th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting heading into the 2015 NHL Draft. But, once again, all 30 teams would pass on Brooks. There was still some NHL hope for him as he had one more season of draft eligibility in 2016.
Before the start of the 2015-16 season, Adam Brooks received an invite and attended the New York Rangers rookie camp. He was also given an increased leadership role as he got the C on his sweater for the Regina Pats. This would be the season that Adam Brooks would show off all of the scoring potential he had built up over the years. He would go on to lead the WHL in points with 120 (38 goals, 82 assists) in 72 games for the Pats and he led his squad to another playoff appearance. He would go on to torch the defense of the top-seeded Lethbridge Hurricanes as the Pats finished them off in 5 games. They lost the next round to Red Deer in a very tough 7-game series. Adam Brooks scored an impressive 23 points in only 12 WHL playoff games. His breakout season was filled with accolades as he won the Bobby Clarke Trophy (most points in WHL) and was named a 1st Team WHL All-Star. Heading into the 2016 NHL Draft, the opinion surrounding Adam Brooks amongst NHL teams had changed. He was now expected to be drafted, which is rare for a player in his 3rd year of draft eligibility. Just a couple of months after his 20th birthday, Brooks was selected 92nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Heading into the 2016-17 season, Adam Brooks was in a very unique situation for a WHLer. The Toronto Maple Leafs had the option to put Brooks on the Toronto Marlies or they could send him back to the WHL as an overager. After some time spent at the Marlies camp in September, the Leafs opted to send him back to Regina for a 5th WHL season. He was given the perfect opportunity in Regina this season to contend for a WHL Championship and the Memorial Cup as they have a very strong squad. Brooks has not disappointed with 112 points in 60 games so far this season and the Pats are closing off the regular season as one of the top teams in junior hockey.
Adam Brooks won the Bobby Clarke Trophy with 120 points in the 2015-16 season
When it comes to predicting the future role of Adam Brooks, it is difficult to gauge, but one thing is certain: he is one resilient hockey player. After not being passed over in two drafts, he continued to put in the work and put up a WHL-leading 120-point season. After being sent back to juniors from the Marlies training camp, he continued his offensive dominance by putting up even better numbers for the Pats this season. He is not dominating junior hockey simply because of his size or his age like some other players, he is dominating because he finally uncovered his true offensive potential that was hidden his first two years in juniors.
Brooks is a player who does not necessarily stand out with one aspect of his game, but he is good at a lot of things and has a lot of tools in his toolbox that allow him to be a very good offensive player. He is not just an offense guy either, as he has the ability to play a multitude of roles on the ice and has a very sound defensive game. His leadership ability should not go unnoticed as he has been the captain of a very successful Regina Pats team for the past two seasons. He is more than just a guy who puts up big points in juniors, then ends up the ECHL and then some second-tier European league. Adam Brooks has a lot of dimension to his game.
The best way to judge whether Brooks can succeed at the professional level is really his time with the Marlies over these next couple of years. We saw a guy like Connor Brown, who was a late round pick, come in and put up huge numbers for the Marlies in the AHL after a monster season with Erie Otters of the OHL. If Adam Brooks is able to come in and do the same thing for the Marlies next year, then Leafs fans should be very, very excited. If he comes in and has a disappointing season, I would not be that worried because Brooks has showed time and time again that he is able to bounce back from disappointing offensive seasons. He went from an 11 point player in his draft year to a 120 point player in the WHL in just a short span of two years.
Since Adam Brooks plays the centre position, he is a very valuable prospect to the Maple Leafs organization. Currently, the Leafs have Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri locked up down the middle long-term. Tyler Bozak’s time as a Leaf is likely coming to a close. William Nylander is a guy who the Leafs want to move to centre in a couple of years, so if that conversion happens then the Leafs are already have the top 3 spots locked up. I believe, if all goes well with his development, Adam Brooks could slot in as a non-traditional 4th line center who can be relied on defensively, but is given opportunity on the offensive side as well. Or maybe the Leafs decide to move him to wing to provide some scoring ability if he cracks the NHL someday.
Whatever his roles is, Toronto Maple Leafs fans should be very excited about Adam Brooks. It’s not often that you can draft an overage player in the NHL Draft who is as exciting and has as much potential as Brooks. He’ll have all Leafs fans cheering “Go Pats Go!” during the WHL Playoffs this spring and (hopefully) the Memorial Cup as well.