As rookie seasons go, it would be hard to top what Luke Adam accomplished in his first year of professional hockey. The center from St. John’s, New Foundland played in the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic, was named the AHL Rookie of the Year, was selected to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team, made his NHL debut and scored his first NHL goal.
When asked which achievement stood out above the rest, the choice was easy for Adam.
“Scoring an NHL goal,” he said. “As a kid, everyone dreams of scoring in the NHL, and to be able to do that in a rink like Boston and against a goalie in Tim Thomas who won the Vezina, it was pretty cool.”
Not only did he score that first NHL goal against the netminder who took home the Vezina Trophy, it was also against the Conn Smythe Trophy winner (Thomas) and the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Adam finished the 2010-11 campaign with 62 points on 29 goals and 33 assists in just 57 games for the Portland Pirates, who ranked second on the team and helped lead it to the Atlantic Division title. He also skated in 19 contests for the Buffalo Sabres, recording three goals and an assist. In the postseason, Adam skated in all 12 of Portland’s games and tallied four goals and three assists.
The 21-year-old Adam, who was selected in the second round (44th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, became the third straight Sabres prospect to win the Dudley (Red) Garrett Award as the League’s top rookie, joining Nathan Gerbe (2008-09) and Tyler Ennis (2009-10), both of whom made significant impacts on the Sabres’ run to the playoffs last season.
“It was unbelievable,” Adam said of winning the award. “To be named Rookie of the Year in the AHL is a huge honor and a huge thrill. To follow in the footsteps of Tyler and Nathan was pretty neat.”
Adam has the distinction of being part of one of Buffalo’s most successful draft classes in recent years in terms of recognition. He was selected after Tyler Myers (12th overall) and Ennis (26th overall) were each taken in the first round. Just three years later, each of those players have earned a Rookie of the Year Award, with Ennis and Adam receiving it at the AHL level and Myers taking home the 2009-10 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top freshman.
By playing at both the NHL and AHL levels last season, in addition to skating in the Calder Cup Playoffs, Adam gained a wealth of experience over the course of the year that he believes will benefit him going forward.
“I think last year was huge for my development,” Adam said. “I played a lot of minutes in Portland; the coaching staff was great with me. I got a lucky opportunity to play with a couple veteran players and I learned a lot from guys like that. I think being in the AHL last year, I learned a lot of intangibles that go along with the professional game and I’m just trying to take all this and put it into one package and carry it forward.”
Adam has spent much of the off-season training at HSBC Arena in preparation for next season. He was also part of the Sabres’ Development Camp for prospects, which was held at Dwyer Arena on the campus of Niagara University from July 5-10. For much of the week, he skated on a line with Ennis, who established himself as one of Buffalo’s top forwards last season, and Zack Kassian, a former first round pick who will be making the jump from juniors to the pros in the upcoming season.
“It was a tough week. Any time you put your body through the type of training we did this week, it’s a bit sore at the end, but it’s good. It’s great to be out on the ice and be around all the boys,” Adam said of the camp before adding that, among other things, he focused on his skating and shooting over the course of the week.
While his ultimate goal is to earn a spot on the Sabres’ roster out of training camp, Adam views the renewed affiliation between Buffalo and Rochester as a positive.
“Not many guys know much about Rochester but all the things we’ve heard have been great,” he said. “I’ve heard they had a lot of great fan support when the Sabres were (affiliated) there, so that will be exciting for the guys… Any time you get a call-up and you can drive your own car, it’s a little easier on the body, so I think that will be a huge bonus.”