Adam Brooks made his NHL debut in late December after spending the last two and half seasons with the Toronto Marlies. As a player who was passed over in his initial year of draft eligibility and selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft as an overager, he has beaten the odds to develop into a viable NHL option.
Brooks entered the Maple Leafs organization coming off of a season where he racked up 120 points in 72 games to lead the WHL in scoring and followed it up with another 130 points the following season, finishing just one point shy of back to back scoring titles. He joined the Marlies the following year but the offensive production didn’t come as easily as it did in junior and Brooks finished his first professional season with just 8 goals and 11 assists in 57 games.
Playing a larger role for the Marlies in his second season, Brooks took a step forward recording 21 goals and 19 assists for 40 points in 61 games. He entered this season squarely on the Leafs radar as a depth option up front and after another 20 points in 29 games with the Marlies through December, the 24 year old earned his first taste of NHL action.
With his entry-level contract set to expire after this season, the Leafs and Brooks agreed to terms on a two-year extension in May.
By The Numbers
Brooks got into just 7 games with the Leafs before he was sent back to the AHL, and while it’s important not to make too much of such a small sample size, the numbers can still tell us a little bit about he performed in his brief NHL stint.
Averaging just 7:51 of ice time playing on the fourth line, he still managed to tally 3 assists in his 7 games. The Leafs controlled 55% of the high danger scoring chances when Brooks was on the ice at 5v5 and his 54.35 xGF% was the third highest among all Leafs this season, just behind Auston Matthews and William Nylander.
Of all Leafs forwards to play at least 50 minutes at 5v5 this season, Brooks stripped pucks at the 5th highest rate with 2.3 takeaways per 60 minutes as he proved to be an effective forechecker. He also made good decisions when he had the puck on his stick, with his 1.15 giveaways/60 ranking 4th best among Leafs forwards.
Though it was just a handful of games with limited minutes, the numbers show that Brooks was a solid depth contributor.
What We’ve Seen So Far
An offensive star in junior, Brooks has worked to refine his two-way game as a pro. He doesn’t have one particular skill that jumps out at you the way Kasperi Kapanen’s speed or Mitch Marner’s vision might, but he’s a well rounded player who thinks the game at a high level. That hockey sense is what has earned him the responsibility of playing in all situations for the Marlies as his career has progressed.
Brooks became a player that Sheldon Keefe came to trust with heavy minutes while they were still together in the AHL, and it’s no secret that the current Leafs bench boss believes in Brooks’ NHL potential as well.
Sheldon Keefe reveals that C Adam Brooks has been leading all #Marlies forwards in TOI during the majority of the playoffs. Keefe says he’s seen an extra jump in Brooks’ game as of late (6 pts in last 7 playoff gp, including a hat trick in game three of round one ). #Leafsforever
— Jacob Stoller (@JLStoller) May 15, 2019
A smaller player who lacks high end speed, Brooks’ anticipation and quick stick make him an effective forechecker and penalty killer. Here he ambushes Connor Hellebuyck behind the net and fights off a defender to find William Nylander out front for the first point of his NHL career:
Adam Brooks’ assist is his first point as a Leaf and William Nylander has goals in 5 straight pic.twitter.com/dyWwuj9oHS
— juno (@junotheleafs) January 3, 2020
The Winnipeg native enjoyed playing against his hometown team, with 2 of his 3 points coming in separate games against the Jets. This doesn’t look like much but this was a difficult pass to see and complete for a player on their weak side.
Really smart pass from Adam Brooks. I’ve liked him a lot in his first NHL stint so far. pic.twitter.com/h3aaSbazIJ
— 51Leafs (@51Leafs) January 9, 2020
Brooks is an intriguing player with the ability to do a lot of different things for his team. In the NHL, he’s unlikely to ever be more than a third or fourth line player but his skill set will allow him to contribute on special teams as well. He has grown into a strong penalty killer for the Marlies and that will only further his chances of becoming a full-time NHL player.
How will he do against Columbus?
Unless multiple forwards are deemed “not fit to play” at one point or another, Brooks is unlikely to draw into games against Columbus. He is capable of filling a fourth line role but against a physically imposing Columbus team, the Leafs will likely stick with their larger and more experienced fourth line options. If Brooks does happen to get into the series, he would add a bit more offensive punch to the fourth line than someone like Freddy Gauthier does but he could also have trouble checking the bigger forwards on the Blue Jackets roster.
With 7 NHL games under his belt this season, Brooks is a safe bet to break camp as part of the Leafs roster and an injury or illness to one of the Leafs’ centers could open the door for him to get into the lineup. Keefe has relied heavily on him in the past, albeit at a lower level, and knows what Brooks brings to the table. In what the Leafs are hoping will be a long playoff run, versatile depth players like Brooks could prove vital to their success.
(Statistics from NaturalStatTrick.com
Viz from hockeyviz.com)