Centre Adam Brooks eyes roster spot with Toronto Marlies

Former Bob Clarke Trophy winner aims to climb minor-league ladder into NHL

One way to draw the attention of any employer is through hard work.

That’s the approach Adam Brooks took Sunday morning, as the centre represented one of only two prospects to show up for an optional skate session at Ricoh Coliseum.

Though the Winnipeg, Man., native has missed some time this weekend after a seemingly never-ending battle all summer with mononucleosis, he’s made sure to soak in all of the experiences of the 2017 Rookie Tournament, pouncing on any opportunity to see the ice.

“Obviously anytime you come back here and be around the development staff it’s nice,” said Brooks, who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs 92nd overall in the 2016 NHL entry draft.

“I got some good skates in and some workouts under my belt. I was out with the illness for a while so missed a couple of those but yeah, just getting back into the groove and ready for year one is what I’ve been focusing on.”

Fresh off an impressive showing with the Regina Pats this past year in the Western Hockey League, where the lefty exploded for 130 points, topping the season prior by a margin of 10, Brooks is looking to make a splash in his first season with the Marlies.

But his first focus, of course, is to make the team, and that requires producing consistently at the AHL level.

“You’ve got to up your game,” he said. “Each of the last five years that I was going back to Regina there was a level of comfort knowing that I was going back.

“But now this is where I’ve got to make the team. I’ve just got to up my game and try to take different parts of my game to a new level in order to play at this level.”

The point-producing specialist has steadily improved his production from year-to-year, most notably in his fourth season with the Pats where the centre almost doubled his point total from 62 in 2015, to 120 in 2016, and then almost tripling his assists numbers from 32 in 2015, to 87 this past season.

He also won the Bob Clarke Trophy, in 2016, as the leading goal scorer in the Western Hockey League.

But like any other emerging prospect eager to break into the NHL, and in this case, the AHL, there requires a level of skill that separates one player from another.

For Brooks, it’s not so much his physical abilities that shine through on the ice, but rather his cerebral style of play and willingness to consistently improve that he thinks will translate well under Marlies’ head coach Sheldon Keefe.

“I think I’m a smart player. I don’t do one thing overly well but I think I do most things pretty well,” said Brooks. “I just want to improve every aspect of my game [such as] my skating, I want to get quicker, obviously bigger and stronger.

“I think that’s a huge part of this game, things happen quicker out there but if you can up those levels of your game then you’re going to have more success.”

The 21-year old understands that the road to the NHL is rarely ever straight, but his only focus as of now is to stay the course in the minors and prove that he can play at the AHL level.

“Your whole life you worked to play professional hockey and now I’m at that point where it’s going to be a reality, hopefully,” he said. “I just want to go out every day in camp and work hard and try to earn a spot here.”