Former NHL head coach and current Regina Pats bench boss John Paddock joined Episode 18 of the Battle of Ontario to discuss Leafs prospect Adam Brooks. Audio and transcript below.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Leafs’ new prospect, how would you describe Adam Brooks as a player and a person?
John Paddock: [He’s] a high character guy who has worked extremely hard to get where he’s at. He’s probably classified a little bit on the smaller side; he’s probably 175 pounds, and 5’11 or 5’10. But [he’s] a very skilled, very smart player, and very creative on the ice.
Playing style wise – as someone who has coached in a lot of leagues for a long time — does he remind you of anyone you’ve coached in the past?
Paddock: I’m sure he does, but that would take a bit to go through. But he’s going to make plays for other players on the ice. A goal scorer would like to play with him. He’ll get them the puck. He plays all situations for us — all two of my years with him, going into our third. He’s a pretty good all-around player.
Adam was drafted 25th overall in the bantam draft by Regina in 2011, so this isn’t a guy who came out of nowhere in his 18 and 19 year old seasons necessarily. Ice time information is not readily available for junior leagues, so we don’t know exactly what kind of opportunity Adam was getting prior to your arrival (in 2014-15). Can you give us any sense of what his role was before your arrival, and how his role grew under you in the following seasons?
Paddock: He didn’t play very much from my understanding, basically [hearing it] from Adam. In some fairness, that’s the way it goes, especially for a 16 year old. But as a 17 year old, it was – based on what I’ve seen – very surprising that he didn’t play more and that he wasn’t given more of an opportunity. I think, specifically, he wasn’t given opportunity in offensive situations. It was probably half way through our first year together that we made some moves to move older players on to help the future. He started to get into offensive situations and he started to thrive.
Adam went from 11 points to 62 points after you arrived, which is a gargantuan leap. Then he nearly doubled it again last season with a 120-point year to lead the WHL in scoring. What growth did you see in his game in the two seasons you’ve been with him that allowed such gigantic strides to be taken from year to year?
Paddock: I think it’s opportunity, and when he was given opportunity he did things right. When you do things right, you build confidence. Losing your confidence, I think, is an overused thing, but if you go out and do things right and you’re equally talented to the guy you’re playing against – or sometimes more – then you’re going to finish on top of that individual battle. His game just grew with opportunity and with production.
Adam is in a position now where he could either go to the AHL and play for the Marlies, or return for one more season of junior with you guys in Regina. As someone who won the scoring title last season, do you think he’s pro ready? Could he in any way still benefit from another year of junior?
Paddock: I’m probably a little bit biased in that, but I think the one factor that’s been mentioned to me before the draft by the at least some to numerous organizations that expressed interest is that he’s really only played two years of major junior. [Many players] wouldn’t play [much] the first year, but it’s not like he’s played four years. The first two years, he didn’t get much time. The thinking of those people that were talking to me before the draft was that there is certainly not going to be any harm in coming back and having another special year like he just had. But it remains to be seen what happens in training camp.
The size question mark is always going to be there with Adam at 5’10 and a listed 175 pounds. Does it hold him back in any significant way?
Paddock: No, I don’t think so. Not at this level, and I think he’s a smart player. He’ll figure out the game whatever level he goes onto play at. Size is something that we all still talk about in hockey, but really we’re talking about it in terms of: If everything is equal, you rather have the bigger guy. There are so many smaller stature players having an impact on games. Obviously the superstars in Kane and Johnny Gaudreau, but these small players, when given an opportunity, have really excelled. Tyler Johnson [as well] in the last two or three years. Size is what you make of it. He’s highly skilled, and it will be up to him to develop and challenge this next step to be a productive player.
As a centerman, how would you describe the roundedness of his game in terms of his ability to play 200 feet, take care of his own zone, and take faceoffs?
Paddock: Well, he excels at this level. There’s really nobody better on most nights. He proved that last year. He plays every situation for us. He makes plays for his wingers. We play a fast game and he’s very capable of playing a fast game.
Adam was one of several overage players that the Leafs drafted as part of a clear strategy to target that demographic of player. Clearly the thinking there is that there’s value there that NHL teams have, to some extent, ignored or failed to identify. You coached in the NHL a long time, you coached in the AHL a long time, and now you’re in the CHL. Do you think that’s an area that NHL teams have perhaps overlooked historically speaking?
Paddock: Possibly. It would be interesting for me to know all the ins [and outs] of the Leafs‘ plans with that. I think it’s very intriguing. You’re always looking for the future and sometimes you probably get caught up in that 17-year-old-turning-18-year-old. You think he’s got two more years to develop and that’s the better option. I’m sure at times that is the best option, and other times those players don’t maintain that upward swing that you projected. Sometimes the 19 year old is a surer bet. He’s in hand. I think it’s very interesting. I think it’s thought-provoking for me in hockey. [The Leafs] are probably going to get a player or two out of those five guys, is my thought or guess.