Adam Brooks has always been a late bloomer in that his prospect stats would always look great if he was a year younger and theoretically had more room to grow in the prospect pipeline. But for a smaller player, Brooks has caught up to his age, and after excelling in the AHL for two years, he’s ready to make the jump onto the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Facing waivers next year, it’s very difficult to imagine the Leafs will potentially let him go without trying him on the team for a little while, just like Marlies of previous years. As one of the many Marlies to play in the NHL last year, Brooks is on the Leafs radar to play on their fourth line. And considering the role he had as the Marlies top centre, I’d say he’s one of the front office’s favourites.
Sheldon Keefe loves Adam Brooks. Last season, we were told Brooks played the most out of any forward on the team, a level of respect offered only to Rasmus Sandin in recent years. He plays in all situations at all times, especially late in games, for the Marlies and he plays the job really well. On a fourth line, having that experience and that confidence to play critical minutes (because on Keefe’s NHL fourth line they got so few), is crucial.
In the NHL, you’re always looking for players who will be a net positive for your team offensively and defensively. It doesn’t matter if you can out-score your problems or whether you grind your way to keeping the score down for the other guys while popping in a few yourself. Brooks is obviously the latter of the two and it fits right in with the Leafs fourth line philosophy; play low variance, don’t lose us the game, help out on special teams.
Votes - Adam Brooks
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For me, I put Brooks right behind Pierre Engvall, behind the second tier of prospects and behind my top tier of prospects (excluding the NHLers and Robertson). I feel like Brooks has the same kind of potential as Engvall had at the same age a year later. He’s a centre, he works hard, he plays a hard-working possession game, penalty kills, fights hard, and can score a tad when he’s with the right people.
I really think there’s a chance Brooks can find himself on the third line at points during the season while knowing he’d be more comfortable on the fourth line — which is how I feel about Engvall. I think Brooks is a step better than Timashov and probably of the value as Trevor Moore. That said, when comparing fourth liners, there’s almost nothing in it between any two fourth line/replacement level players, but it’s always good to have the better of the options available. To be honest, with Engvall and Brooks, the Leafs have the better two of the four I’ve just mentioned.
Yes, this is all quite bold to say, but with how much the coach loves Brooks and how versatile he can be as a complimentary player on a team full of talent at centre and on the right side, I can see him getting chances higher up that wouldn’t conventionally happen. It happened to a smaller degree with Dmytro Timashov, even when I felt it wasn’t completely earned, so I’m sure it’s going to happen with one of Keefe’s favourites.
When you’re a top-line centre in the AHL without any stand-out skills, you have to do a lot of good things right. Brooks is a smaller player, so his positioning and speed along the boards to win battles and create lanes and openings for his teammates has been something that’s stood out to me in my time watching him. The AHL is a very physical league with big defensemen (see: Marlies, 2019-20) and Brooks is just fine in that arena thanks to his shiftiness and strong lower half.
Offensively, he’s a great player to have in the middle of the zone to either cover back and relieve pressure, as well as in shooting lanes for tips and rebounds. It was a little shocking as I went through Brooks’ highlights how many of his goals came from tips out in front. I knew he was very strong in front of the net on rebounds, but I didn’t notice how effective he made the medium-zone tip work to his advantage. He’s one of those players who can’t score from outside very often, so he has to get in the middle, which he does effectively.
Once again, Brooks can do a lot of things for you; he’s a centre, he is a good penalty killer, he plays a possession game on and off the puck, he’s good to have out while defending leads, and he can play the bumper on your second power play if you need the hands. He fights hard in front of the net and is quite shifty in the medium-danger area of the offensive zone.
Reliability (and he’s honestly quite talented)
Brooks has scored some big goals (and made big stops) for the Toronto Marlies. He’s top-calibre captain-quality player in the AHL and he’s done it night-in night-out for two seasons now. When he’s been out of the lineup due to injury or when he was called up to the Leafs, he was sorely missed at centre and at the end of games. The Marlies didn’t have a lot of games where they led late, but they also could’ve used some clutch hands to complete a handful of comebacks during the odd losing streak.
Brooks is going to give you what he has every night and he’s not going to take one off. On a team, when the top guys aren’t going, it sucks. But when your bottom guys are screwing up, it stings. Brooks won’t do that, which is a small shred of calm when otherwise watching Leafs games.
Brooks is good at a lot of things, but he’s not really great at anything in particular, especially when the puck is on his stick. He’s not going to “wow” you and make a brilliant play, that’s never been his job. He’s the one that makes the quiet, smart play that keeps the puck moving and in possession of the good guys. He’ll compliment your difference-makers but he’ll never be one himself.
But hey, who said a penalty killer couldn’t make a difference! (This was my first ever NHL game, by the way).
Brooks has had a few concussions in his career and has had to miss a reasonable amount of games due to other injuries as well. It’s tough to fault a guy for poor luck, but it’s worth putting out there. I don’t think he’s ever come back a step worse after a few games back from an injury, he’s solid in that sense.
What the Experts Think
All in all, the masthead are unsure as to whether Brooks can be a competent NHLer, which is fair considering the lack of data on the topic. Brigstew and I will stay optimistic.
Katya: Brooks ages off the list next year, and is the third oldest player on the eligibility list this year, and I found him one of the hardest players to rank. That seven NHL games played muddies the water more than it clarifies. He wasn’t laughed off the ice, but you know that feeling when a player first steps on the NHL ice, and they just look like they belong? I felt that with Rasmus Sandin, but Brooks is still a huge question mark to me. His AHL level is clearly understood, and he ranks at least as good as Mark Arcobello when he plays, which he often doesn’t. And no, that’s not a ringing endorsement. The lesson of Josh Leivo, who coasted along in the AHL never improving is always in the back of my mind. When given a challenge, some players (eventually) rise to it. To rank Brooks higher than I did, you have to believe he will.
Fulemin: He’s a neato, fringe-y depth guy. It’s cool to me he’s made it this far. I don’t expect much more, but you’ll probably remember Adam Brooks’ name better than most of the Leafs’ picks in 2016 and 2017, and that’s something at least.
Brigstew: I love Brooks, always have. Last year I wrote that this was a bit of a make or break year for him to see if he could really make the NHL. Well, he did make the NHL in a short stint and did okay for himself. I think he could definitely have value as a solid all-round fourth liner who kills penalties and isn’t a hazard for his own team. More than that? Ehhh, I will concede maybe not but he’s already beaten the odds to get this far. Dude also needs to stay healthy.
Who is Adam Brooks?
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