In the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs made one of the most interesting selections of Day Two when they drafted Adam Brooks with the 92nd overall pick. Brooks was the leading scorer of the 2015-16 WHL season, recording a whopping 120 points in 72 games.
Why wasn’t he a first rounder, let alone a top pick? Brooks accomplished this in his third year eligible for the NHL Entry Draft, as a 19-year old. Regardless, the Leafs took a shot on the late bloomer in the fourth round and he has since emerged as one of the most intriguing prospects in the Toronto organization.
Toronto Maple Leafs Roster Preview, 50-in-50: Adam Brooks
As an overage prospect drafted out of the WHL, Brooks was one of the few Canadian 2016 draft picks that were eligible to play in either the CHL or the AHL last year. However, with the Toronto Marlies seemingly packed to the brink with forwards, the Leafs decided to send Brooks back to Regina for a fifth and final WHL campaign.
The Marlies centre depth was tested last season and in retrospect, Brooks could’ve played a role in the AHL last year. Throughout the year, the Marlies used plenty of centres, including players on AHL contract, ECHLers, and even loanees. Colin Smith, Brett Findlay, Cal O’Reilly, Tony Cameranesi, Sergey Kalinin, and Eric Faille all played spot duty for the Marlies in 2016-17. If they had Adam Brooks at their disposal, the Marlies could have avoided some of the unpredictability with their lineup.
Regardless, Brooks played a rare fifth CHL season for a drafted prospect. Back in Regina once again, as the captain, Brooks increased his scoring in fewer games. In 66 games, Brooks destroyed the league once again, registering an incredible 130 points. He did not lead the WHL in scoring, however, as his teammate and Anaheim first round pick, Sam Steel, scored one more point.
The WHL Playoffs
Regina finished as the top seed with 52 wins in the 72 game season, setting their sights on the Memorial Cup in Windsor. They opened the playoffs with a four game sweep of the Calgary Hitmen, with Brooks scoring seven points including four in Game One.
Things took a turn in the second round for both the Pats and Brooks. After a Game One overtime loss against the Swift Current Broncos, Adam Brooks suffered a leg injury in the first period of Game Two. He would only miss two games but upon return, the Pats found themselves down 3-1 in the series.
After a blistering start to the postseason, Brooks went scoreless in the final three games of the second round. Although the injury obvious lingered, Regina was able to battle back and win the series in seven games.
Back and healthy, Brooks returned to form in the third round against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In the six game series victory, the Winnipeg native recorded nine points. The Pats were set for a clash with the Seattle Thunderbirds, with a trip to the Memorial Cup on the line.
Unfortunately, Brooks suffered a concussion in Game One against the Thunderbirds, ending his season prematurely. Without Brooks, Regina fought but lost in six games. In total, Adam Brooks scored 18 points in an injury riddled 16 postseason games.
Profile (via EliteProspects)
Weight: 176 lbs
NHL Entry Draft: Fourth Round, 92nd Overall in 2016 by Toronto
Contract (via CapFriendly)
As a 21-year old at season’s end, the Toronto Maple Leafs held Brooks’ exclusive rights for another season even though he was no longer eligible for the WHL. The Leafs elected to sign Brooks to a three-year entry level contract rather than sign him to an AHL contract, however. The Leafs had another prospect in this situation in J.J. Piccinich, who they decided to bring in on a two-year AHL contract.
Though unlikely in 2017-18, Brooks would make $650,000 in base salary in the NHL next season. He already collected a signing bonus of $92,500 on July 1, but his cap hit is not $742,500. Rather, it is $759,167, as the final year of his contract sees a $50,000 raise in base salary.
Brooks will also have the potential to make $182,500 in performance bonuses if he reaches certain totals in the NHL. Again, this is very unlikely for him next season but could come into play in two or three years time. Brooks will make $70,000 in the minors for the duration of the entry level contract.
With the signing of Dominic Moore, the Leafs do not need to rush Brooks straight to the NHL. Rather, he will likely see top minutes with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL as the Leafs look to see whether their fourth round experiment will pay off.
Though the Marlies are loaded on the wings, they lack depth up the middle. After the departure of Byron Froese at last year’s trade deadline, the Marlies severely lacked a top line centre. In fact, the Leafs had to bring in Cal O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres on loan to fill the void.
The Leafs realized this was an issue last season, leading to the signing of AHL veteran Chris Mueller on July 1. He is a near guarantee to feature in the top six down the middle. The other centre in that mix could very well be Brooks.
The Marlies Depth
Frederik Gauthier will miss the start of the season due to injury but wouldn’t be an option for the top six anyway. Miro Aaltonen, who we previewed already, could be in the mix at centre as well. He can also play the left wing, which could push him to the left to leave space for Brooks or push him down to the third line centre position. Colin Greening will likely play centre for the Marlies as he did last year but is better suited in a bottom six role to give the younger players more opportunity to play.
The way the depth chart is lining up, the Leafs look to be giving Adam Brooks the ice-time necessary for him to break out as a true prospect, not just a WHL all-star. Brooks will have quality linemates to help transition him to the professional game, that is without question on an offensively loaded Marlies squad.
Brooks’ transition will be one of the most intriguing storylines to follow in the Leafs’ organization in 2017-18. Can the massive overage numbers in the WHL translate to AHL or even NHL success? If he succeeds, he will become one of the first late-round Mark Hunter draft picks to emerge at the professional level.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images