ADAM, McNABB EAGER FOR AHL ALL-STAR CLASSIC IN ST. JOHN'SFeatures | 2/10/2014 4:32:48 PM | Justin Ritzel
In what has been a bit of a whirlwind season for the entire Rochester Americans hockey team, two of the Amerks recently added a special destination to their February calendars.
Those players are forward Luke Adam and defenseman Brayden McNabb, and their destination is the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic at Mile One Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
For Adam, the selection comes in the midst of a career season as the 23-year-old has already scored 20 goals this year in just 32 games, despite seeing significant time with the Amerks NHL affiliate, the Buffalo Sabres. McNabb, on the other hand, will be heading to his third consecutive All-Star Classic as he enjoys another strong season on the Amerks back-end.
The All-Star Classic is not only the second appearance in the young career for Adam, but will go down as a personal homecoming. Adam is a native of St. John’s, and due to Rochester’s grueling AHL schedule, hasn’t competed in his hometown since playing junior hockey.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Adam said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to go home and play and a lot of fun to represent the league in the All-Star game.”
Despite his success this year, Adam was not one of the initial choices for this year’s All-Star Classic. After a series of injuries to other participants, however, Adam finally got the call he was waiting for.
“I found out last Monday,” Adam said. “You’re always surprised, but I thought my season was going well enough to get the opportunity to put forth a chance of being picked for the team. Obviously it wasn’t the first time around, but one or two guys went down and I was lucky enough to continue to be playing well and to have that opportunity.”
In 28 games played with Rochester, McNabb has totaled 22 points highlighted by a four-assist night on Nov. 1 against the Syracuse Crunch. During a season that has included an outdoor game, a trip to Switzerland to compete in the Spengler Cup and numerous call-ups to Buffalo, McNabb admits it’s been a wild season so far.
“It’s kind of been all over,” McNabb said. “At one point I felt like I was traveling around the world there for a bit, from going to the Spengler Cup to getting called up while we were in Switzerland. It’s been good, some ups and downs, and I’m just trying to work on my game and develop into an NHL player and hopefully be in Buffalo long-term someday.”
Part of the appeal in another All-Star appearance for McNabb will be a chance to defend his title in the hardest shot competition. McNabb hammered a 101.8 MPH slap-shot to take the crown in last year’s AHL All-Star Skills competition.
“I might have to have a few cheeseburgers to put a little more weight behind it,” McNabb said.
Cheeseburgers or not, it remains to be seen if McNabb will face any friendly competition from his teammate, Adam.
“I’m not sure what events I’m going to be in,” Adam said. “My first year I did the targets, and my second year pro I was in the [NHL All-Star Rookie Challenge] and I did hardest shot. I think we’ll let McNabb take care of that one.”
This year’s All-Star Classic comes with a special spin, as the AHL All-Stars will compete against Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. A change in format is a welcome one to Rochester’s All-Stars.
“It’s different, that’s for sure,” McNabb said. “It will be kind of cool to see how they play on the smaller ice. Obviously there’s going to be a good group of players going there from the AHL. It will be fun and it will be a good test for us.”
While his chance to compete against the Europeans presents a different challenge for this year’s All-Stars, for Adam it always comes back to returning home to play, and having the opportunity to do so with one of his Amerks teammates.
“It’ll be fun to go along with him and take him to my hometown and where I grew up and show him the ropes a little bit,” Adam said. “We’ll have a lot of fun there and I’m looking forward to it.”