PHYSICAL: 5’10” / 178 cm, 181lbs 82 kg
2018 TLN PROSPECT RANKING: #12
DRAFT INFO: 2016 4TH ROUND, 92ND OVERALL
Adam Brooks has been an interesting prospect in the Leafs’ ranks. He’s never really gotten a ton of hype, even back when he was absolutely destroying the WHL with 120 and 130 point seasons. The reason is that those dominant seasons didn’t start happening until he was past the normal draft age of 18 years old.
When Brooks finally was drafted at 19 years old, he represented a new approach by the Leafs scouting staff of intentionally taking over-age players. Brooks, along with Egor Korshkov (signed ELC with Toronto in 2019), Jack Walker (AHL deal with Minnesota Wild in 2017), and Vladmir Bobylev (rights owned by Toronto, signed by KHL Spartak Moskva 2016, traded to Salavat Yulaev 2017, plays for VHL Toros Neftekamsk). This approach hasn’t had an impact yet, as none of these players have made an impact on the Leafs, and Walker and Bobylev never will. However, I believe it still stands that Brooks was an excellent selection in that draft, even if there was a bit of seasoning required.
Development with Toronto
Since being drafted by the Leafs, Brooks has been working his way up the ranks with the Toronto Marlies. He started off slowly, with mostly being a healthy scratch in his first year and a half with the team. However, in the latter parts of the 2018-19 season, he became a notable presence in their top 6, playing in many different combinations with other top played for Toronto’s AHL affiliate. He was able to start contributing immensely on offense, finishing the season with 40 points in 61 games, and adding another 8 in 13 games of their unsuccessful Calder Cup bid. He also contributes a lot for the Marlies on special teams, with significant roles on both the powerplay and the penalty kill.
In short, he’s become the best center the Marlies had last season, which has been a much needed development for a team that has been scrambling for center help since the days of Mike Zigomanis, Joe Colborne, and Greg Scott.
However, for the Maple Leafs, his stock has risen and fallen over the years with Toronto, but to be honest, it’s mostly fallen. This PNHLe chart shows that pretty well. PNHLe uses the history of prospects who have graduated to see how much the points someone scored might be worth in the NHL, in combination with how prospects tend to get better as they get older.
His debut with the Toronto Marlies in 2017-18 really hurt his stock, but his WHL time is still impressive even if it’s history.
The Marlies’ reliance on Brooks has to have caught Toronto’s eye, as they are just as desperate for prospect centers. They haven’t drafted a notable center in the NHL draft since Auston Matthews, focusing most of their efforts on high-profile defenders and underrated wingers. The few that they have taken, in Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Mikahil Abramov, etc., are in a similar track as Brooks and will possibly move through the ranks in a similar fashion in the near future. Otherwise, there has been attempts to convert other players like Pierre Engvall to center, which has been met with some success. For now, though, Brooks is really all they have waiting in the AHL when it comes to young center talent.
For next season, though, the Leafs have added quite a few centers and possible centers at the NHL and AHL level since the departure of Nazem Kadri. Jason Spezza, Devin Shore, Tyler Gaudet, Kalle Kossila, and obviously Alexander Kerfoot. They also still have both Nic Petan and Frederik Gauthier.
All of this is to say that Brooks will have his work cut out for him if he wants to make the NHL this year, and it really seems unlikely for him. But that’s not going to stop him from being a good candidate for the role in the future.
As Brooks is now 23, his window for making the jump is shortening. If he finds himself in the same situation next year, that may be enough to say he’s not going to make it. But for now, there’s still plenty of hope for an opportunity next season when some of the veterans have moved on. There may even be an opportunity this season if he’s impressive enough with the Marlies and some injuries occur.
Why He’s in This Tier
I’m not giving up hope on Brooks, as he stands out as one of the more talented members of this group of prospects, and that’s why he gets to fall in the “Maybes” category. There’s enough hope that he can really transition into the NHL, even if the Leafs are suddenly loaded with depth at center. Brooks is a talented player and the Leafs we know that, at least we like to think so (on both accounts).
If there’s one thing to hold your hat on, it’s that Brooks is a penalty killing offensive center who’s pretty good in the faceoff dot. That’s exactly what NHL coaches, Babcock included, are looking for in a 4th line center in the new NHL.
Brooks can carve himself out a role in the future, but it’s not looking super likely after the Leafs loaded up with center depth. Ultimately, if he continues to show growth in the AHL with a great season next year, he may see himself on the Leafs in 2020 and that’s exciting enough for me to justify him being in this tier.