Adam Brooks, Forward
Toronto Maple Leafs (2019-present)
8 GP – 1G – 3A – 4 pts.
Regina Pats (2012-2017)
317 GP – 119G – 216A – 335 pts.
Awards: WHL First All-Star (East, 2015-16); WHL Top Scorer (2015-16); WHL First All-Star (East, 2016-17)
It’s been a long and difficult road for former Regina Pats captain Adam Brooks, but perseverance is paying off.
Friday night, the 24-year-old product of Winnipeg, Man., registered his first career NHL goal in his eighth career NHL appearance with the Toronto Maple Leafs and while that might not seem like that big a deal, when you consider everything the creative playmaker has experienced just to get to that moment, it is more than significant.
“It definitely feels good,” Brooks said during post-game media of scoring his first career NHL goal. “I think there was a lot of pressure taken off me. That was the first game I’ve played in 330 days, or something like that, so it’s been a long time. It was nice to get that bounce and nice for it to come from a guy like Jason Spezza.
“It was a lot of fun, a great moment that I’ll remember forever. I’m just happy I got the opportunity to be out there with those guys.”
Brooks was beaten black and blue in his final appearances in the WHL, battle scars courtesy a hard-fought WHL Championship series with the Seattle Thunderbirds in which the Pats lost in six games. From there, he graduated from the WHL and signed his entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs later that summer on June 29, 2017.
The 2017-18 season saw Brooks get his feet wet in the pro ranks, skating in 57 regular season contests with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and registering 19 points (8G-11A) before contributing six points (2G-4A) in 20 playoff appearances as the Marlies claimed the Calder Cup Championship.
But less than a year later, the character-laden Brooks was knocked a serious blow in only his second AHL season.
On November 9, 2018, the 5-foot-10, 181-pound pivot began experiencing an elevated heart rate, cause for alarm. He was pulled from the AHL game he was dressed for and ended up missing four contests while the heart issue was monitored. Any sort of heart scare is enough to cause serious concern for any elite athlete, and Brooks was no exception. But with the heart worries managed, he returned to the Marlies lineup and eventually found his way.
Brooks ended up breaking out upon returning to the Marlies lineup, clicking for 40 points (21G-19A) in 61 regular season outings and adding another eight points (6G-2A) in 13 playoff games.
That led to an NHL debut during the 2019-20 season, and even more impressive rates of production at the American League level, as Brooks stacked up 20 points (9G-11A) in only 29 regular season games.
Fast forward through a COVID-complicated offseason and Brooks found himself on the opening night roster as a part of the taxi squad for the Toronto Maple Leafs come January 2021.
“It was definitely hard,” Brooks said of the extended offseason. “A lot of guys were in that situation where they didn’t play for a long time. Whenever you get back into a situation like that where you get to play, the first period or first little bit is always going to be hard, no matter how hard you train and no matter what you’re doing. Whenever you get into game mode, it’s always a little bit harder and a little bit of a step up.”
Making his season debut with the Club on Friday, Brooks redirected a feed from longtime NHLer Jason Spezza and put it past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen for the long-awaited – and much deserved – first goal of his NHL career.
WHL fans will no doubt remember the heart-and-soul presence of Brooks during his lengthy and impressive WHL career. What stands out, of course, is the gutsy performance he put on during the 2017 WHL Championship. The Pats captain suffered a knee injury in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinal, which ultimately kept him out of the remainder of the best-of-seven bout with rival Swift Current. He returned for the Eastern Conference Championship as the Pats knocked off the Lethbridge Hurricanes, only to be on the receiving end of a crushing bodycheck from Turner Ottenbreit in Game 1 of the WHL Championship Series with Seattle.
Brooks missed Game 2 through Game 5, but with the Regina Pats championship hopes on the line, he returned to the lineup for Game 6 on Brandt Centre ice and provided an emotional lift for a battered Pats squad and a nervous Pats crowd.
Though it wasn’t enough to keep the Pats championship hopes alive, that display of classic, western toughness etched a lasting memory of Brooks in the minds of Pats fans, and WHL fans across the region.
As he walked off the Brandt Centre ice that one last time, Brooks ranked third all-time in regular season games played with the Pats, his 317 appearances trailing Frank Kovacs (352) and Brett Lysak (331). His 216 career regular season assists rank sixth all-time in Pats history – one ahead of former teammate Sam Steel.
When you consider the 100-plus year history of the storied Regina Pats, finishing anywhere among the franchise leaders is an impressive feat.
Brooks was originally selected by the Pats in the second round (25th overall) of the 2011 WHL Draft. After two tough seasons to start his WHL days, Brooks exploded for 62 points (30G-32A) in 2014-15 before rattling off back-to-back 100-plus point campaigns to conclude his WHL career – 120 points and 130 points in 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively.
He was selected by the Maple Leafs in the fourth round (92nd overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Brooks and the Maple Leafs are in the midst of a Western swing through the NHL’s North Division, having edged the Calgary Flames by a 3-2 margin on Sunday afternoon. Brooks and the Leafs will look to make it two consecutive victories over Calgary when they take on the Flames Tuesday night at 7 p.m. MT.