First impressions are lasting impressions for Portland Pirates forward Luke Adam, who is following the path of several former players who have made an impact on a franchise that’s in its 18th season.
Adam, 20, who made his debut in a Pirates uniform last season during the Pirates brief playoff run, played his first regular on Saturday, and didn’t disappoint.
Scoring two goals, two assists, Adam was named Player of the Week, in the opening week of the AHL.
“He had a good offensive game the first night out,” Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. “We’re encouraged by a lot of good things. I think there’s some buzz on Luke with him starting his professional career.”
For the St. John’s, Newfoundland native, he’s accepting the buzz and accolades with a level head, not letting the pressure of following in the footsteps of current Buffalo Sabres rookies Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis.
Both have been named AHL Rookie of the Year, and played vital roles with Pirates in their first season with the team and have since moved up to the NHL.
“I don’t think about pressure,” said Adam. “It might be a bit of added motivation. It’s pretty neat that both (Tyler) Ennis and (Nathan) Gerbe received (AHL) Rookie of the Year.”
“Obviously, as a rookie in any league, I think that’s everyone’s goal (but), I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I’m just trying to focus on putting together one game at a time and after an 80-game season, we’ll see what happens.”
Adam, drafted by the Sabres in the second round (#44 overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, began his professional career last season after finishing his junior season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles where he scored 49 goals, 41 assists for 90 points in 56 games, coming just short of winning the QMJHL’s MVP award.
In three games, he scored a pair of assists for the Pirates before being swept in four straight games by the Manchester Monarchs.
Still he took the experience, albeit brief, as a positive.
“I worked real hard this summer,” said Adam. “Coming (to Portland) at the end of last season I think really benefited me. Being able to come here to see what it’s like in the American Hockey League and getting in some exhibition games in Buffalo at the beginning of the year, I think really helped my confidence.”
Since coming to Portland, Adam has been playing center between veteran’s Mark Mancari and newly named captain Matt Ellis.
Both have been impressed with the rookie, but for Mancari, he showed a certain level of big brother protection for his line mate.
“He’s an extremely smart player,” said Mancari. “I have to give him a lot of credit, he did well, but at the same time I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. We’re talking to him a lot, trying to calm him down, it’s not like he’s nervous, but we’re just letting him know about the game, if things change.”
Adam notices the teacher-student aspect of the game, soaking up the knowledge like a sponge, playing with two players that have a combined 15 years of experience.
“The guys here have been great,” Adam said. “We have a veteran presence that has really really been helping out the younger guys. That’s definitely huge in the locker room.”
NOTES: Pirates’ defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani is skating fully in practice and could return to action within the next week to 10 days.
Dudley (Red) Garrett Award Winners for the Portland Pirates
2009-10 Tyler Ennis
2008-09 Nathan Gerbe
1996-97 Jaroslav Svejkovsky
1994-95 Jim Carey
*In 2007-2008, Bobby Ryan finished as the runner-up to Teddy Purcell of the Manchester Monarchs.