Centre Adam Brooks comes into the Leafs rookie tournament as one of the more experienced guys, despite being a fourth-round draft pick in 2016.
Of the 17 draft choices on the tournament roster, Brooks is the oldest there — ahead of even 2014 fourth-round pick J.J. Piccinich.
There’s a reason for that, as he went undrafted in both 2014 and 2015.
“Obviously I got passed over, I was frustrated, tried to build on it the next year and thought I did that, then got passed over again,” Brooks said, after the Leafs’ pre-game skate for Friday’s game vs. Montreal.
He finished with 11 and 62 points, respectively, in the two seasons he went undrafted. The year the Leafs took him in the fourth round, he had 120.
“Coming into (2015-2016), I really felt like I had something to prove and thought I had a good year in showing that I can play at the pro level (now) with some of the best guys in the league.”
It’s been a long journey to the AHL level for Brooks, who was eligible to play pro last year, but instead went back to the Pats.
“Obviously this organization does what they think is best for you,” Brooks said, regarding the Leafs’ decision to send him back to junior. “Last year (Regina) had a good team that was going to contend to win a championship and I saw that as a great opportunity for me.
“And ultimately I played more there than I probably would’ve here.”
Brooks took the move in stride, and got the chance to play a leadership role. He improved his point total from 120 to 130 (43 goals), while his team fell two games shy of the WHL Championship.
Not only was it a chance for Brooks to go back to the closest team he’s ever been a part of, he spent another year under the tutelage of Pats coach John Paddock, whom he credits for a lot of his success.
His point total jumped nearly six times when the coach was hired in August of 2014.
“Without John and [assistant coach] David [Struch], I don’t know where my career would be. Those guys came in and just gave me all the hope in the world that I could still play junior and hopefully play pro one day.
“They keep an open door, are always positive with you, and all they want to do is see you succeed once you get to that next level.”
Having signed his entry-level deal in June, Brooks is looking forward to making his mark on the Marlies.
Leafs fans have wasted no time in anointing Brooks as one of their own, calling him “Prairie Jesus” during his final season in Regina.
“Yeah, I’ve seen it a couple of times. I don’t know where that came from.”
Apparently it’s because he played on the Prairies and his production took a God-like ascent. Whenever he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL, he’ll already be considered a fan favourite.