If you had asked me, during the summer, if I thought center Luke Adam had a shot at making the Buffalo Sabres opening night roster, I would have said something like, “Good hands, but too slow”.
Admittedly, I have not had 20 games to evaluate Adam to this point. I have seen the kid play in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament, and throughout the Sabres’ preseason, and that’s all.
Well guess what? That’s enough for me.
The 21-year old thoroughly dominated in Traverse City, looking like a man amongst boys. With three goals, one assist, and a plus-four rating in three games, Adam led the Sabres kiddies to the tournament championship, winning the Most Valuable Player for his efforts. His linemates, Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian (is it Kass-ee-uhn or Kash-un? For crying out loud, somebody pick one), were almost as impressive and, yes, that obviously helped Adam’s cause. However, Adam seemed to always be two steps ahead of his opponents, especially in the offensive zone. Truthfully, what impressed me the most, though, was his considerably improved skating. His explosion from a standing position was noticeable, but it was when he hit top speed that was most astonishing. He no longer looks like Andrew Peters (ok, maybe Adam was never that slow), but instead looks like, well, an NHL player. This was none more evident than during the start of the NHL preseason. His speed, coupled with his 6’3″, 200+ lb. frame, especially through the neutral zone, is comparable to a locomotive. It actually looked kind of intimidating.
Adam reportedly worked with a power skating coach over the summer, and it’s apparent. He no longer looks like a kid just trying to keep up, physically and mentally, with the speed of the game. During his warranted recalls from the AHL last year, Adam showed some flashes of why he would eventually win that league’s 2010-11 Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Trophy as rookie-of-the-year. He always had great hands (107 goals over his last three seasons in junior hockey), with some scouts marveling at his ridiculous hand-eye coordination and adeptness at deflecting pucks (29 goals in 57 games with the Pirates in the AHL, and three goals in 19 games with Buffalo, which pro-rates to 12 over a full NHL year. Not too bad for a rookie). His decision making (Adam was a minus-6 in those games with the Sabres) needed a little seasoning, but it was being so slow afoot that was getting him into so much trouble. He got caught out of position, and that cost his team goals.
It was thought that Adam had a shot to make the Sabres’ roster this coming season, but roster spots would have an impact on that decision. Minus Adam, Buffalo has 13 players (Boyes, Ellis, Ennis, Gaustad, Gerbe, Hecht, Kaleta, Leino, McCormick, Pominville, Roy, Stafford and Vanek) that can, or will, play on the big league team this season. Where would Adam fit in?
Many thought that another full year in the minors would do Adam good, and that might have been all he needed to take that next step going into 2012-13 (provided we make it past the Mayan prophecy…LOL… of world destruction on December 21st, 2012, of course).
You know what? Make a spot for the kid, because he’s ready.
The Sabres have waived Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn, hoping that some other team might pick them up (don’t hold your breath), but realistically with intentions of sending the two to Rochester. That has eased some of the logjam, but who else would you waive/trade/sit to fit a deserving Luke Adam onto coach Lindy Ruff‘s lineup card? Hecht is injured right now and, depending on longevity of his ailments (post-concussion symptoms?), that may give Adam some ice-time. If Hecht is ready to go though, are there some other options? I do not want Adam up here as the thirteenth forward, where he gets in every fourth game. The kid needs to see the ice, and has got to play, whether it’s in the NHL or AHL. Could Adam force Darcy Regier to make yet another move, perhaps dealing a veteran off his deep roster? Or will the GM bide his time for a bit, see what happens (injuries and individual poor play always happen), and go from there? Boyes, Gaustad (who would be my choice to remain a Sabre…at the right price) and Hecht are all coming off the books for next year which, in my opinion, gives Adam (and a kid like Foligno) a sure spot for 2012-13.
But, I can’t see how you can deny the kid, and make him wait that long.
Last night, in the Sabres’ 3-2 win over division rival Toronto Maple Leafs, Adam had a goal and an assist, and was one of the best players on the ice. Yes, he was on the ice with Vanek and Boyes, a couple of players who obviously have buried a couple of pucks (354 between the two, to be exact) over their careers. But, he wasn’t riding anyone’s coat-tails, to be sure. He wasn’t out there just “trying to hang with the big boys”. He earned first star last night for a reason, just as he earned AHL Rookie-of-the-year honors and numerous recalls from the AHL last season, and Traverse City MVP this year.
It won’t be easy to fit him in, as the roster stands right now. But, Luke Adam has nothing more to prove in the minors, and has earned a spot on my 2011-12 Buffalo Sabres.
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Tags: Ales Kotalik Brad Boyes Buffalo Sabres Cody Mccormick Darcy Regier Derek Roy Drew Stafford Dudley Red Garrett Trophy Winners Jason Pominville Jochen Hecht Lindy Ruff Luke Adam Marcus Foligno Matt Ellis Mayan Calendar Nathan Gerbe Patrick Kaleta Paul Gaustad Portland Pirates Shaone Morrisonn Rochester Americans Thomas Vanek Toronto Maple Leafs Traverse City Prospects Tournament Tyler Ennis Ville Leino Zack Kassian