NEW YORK — In your third official day within the NHL there are worse locations to take an non-obligatory morning skate than this: Below the brilliant TV lights and well-known picket roof at Madison Sq. Backyard.
There Adam Brooks was Friday morning, pushing himself to exhaustion alongside fellow Toronto Maple Leafs scratches Trevor Moore and Martin Marincin, and backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson.
Had he taken a second to totally catch his breath, he may need needed to pinch himself.
“It was quite a lot of enjoyable on the market,” mentioned Brooks. “It was sort of laborious, but it surely was good.”
The 23-year-old centre has taken the scenic path to this primary tour of NHL responsibility. That features attending a summer season rookie camp and the Traverse Metropolis event with the New York Rangers in 2015 — a 12 months earlier than he was drafted 92nd total by Toronto in his second 12 months of eligibility — and elements of three seasons within the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies.
His standing with the Leafs ought to formally be listed as day-to-day — as in any day now he would possibly discover himself heading again to the AHL — however head coach Sheldon Keefe believes there’s worth in each second he will get to go to work alongside John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Co.
Brooks is a participant Keefe got here to belief throughout their time along with the Marlies, and the largest hurdle he faces in taking the following step is gaining the boldness to maintain doing what received him right here.
“I believe the power of the gamers which are within the minors actually isn’t as huge a spot as many would suppose, particularly for the highest gamers down there,” mentioned Keefe. “That’s one factor I’ve realized in being right here the brief time that I’ve. However it’s how shortly these guys can get comfy and feeling like they will simply play and be themselves and all these forms of issues.
“I believe every single day that you’ve within the NHL helps you progress in the direction of that.”
It’s not but clear if Brooks will get an opportunity to make his Leafs debut throughout this recall.
The timing doesn’t look like in his favour with Moore able to return from a shoulder harm and bottom-six forwards Frederik Gauther, Dmytro Timashov and Pierre Engvall all taking part in nicely for the Leafs.
Nonetheless, it was an enormous thrill for him simply to take the warmup at Scotiabank Area earlier than Tuesday’s recreation towards the Buffalo Sabres. Name it a step in the suitable path.
“It was cool,” mentioned Brooks. “I knew there was a fairly good likelihood that I wasn’t going to play and I used to be nonetheless nervous. I used to be nonetheless nervous going on the market in entrance of all of the Leafs followers.”
As for what he’s realized in stepping behind the scenes at this stage?
“Simply that there’s nonetheless quite a lot of work to be put in,” mentioned Brooks. “You see the blokes which are within the lineup for them each night time, guys that performed on our crew [in the AHL], and simply how their video games have grown from being up right here all 12 months.
“It’s one thing to attempt to purpose for, and to attempt to get right into a [NHL] recreation firstly, after which hopefully down the highway to attempt to compete for a spot absolutely.”
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Regardless of all of the depth within the Leafs group, there is a chance for him right here within the huge image.
An understated facet of the choice to have Keefe substitute Mike Babcock final month is that established roles inside the crew shift. You want solely take a look at Jon Cooper in Tampa or Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh to seek out examples of an AHL coach who introduced up trusted lieutenants after being elevated to the NHL job.
Brooks seems to be a robust candidate to do one thing related in Toronto. He’s methodically labored his means up the ladder — scoring a exceptional 250 factors throughout his remaining two seasons for Regina within the Western Hockey League earlier than climbing from the Marlies fourth line to its high line.
“Sticking with it’s a good option to describe [him],” mentioned Keefe.
Now he’s up with the massive membership, placing in work beneath essentially the most well-known roof within the NHL and ready for his coach to present him the nod.
“We haven’t had that many talks,” Brooks mentioned of Keefe. “He simply mentioned ‘it’s good to see ya, go to work.’
“In order that’s all I’m attempting to do.”