Adam Mair is on a fast-track to the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oh, think he will be a Hart Trophy winner? No, he won’t. Oh, then, an Art Ross award winner? No, not likely. What, then? “He will bring everything he has to the table, every shift. Never taking a moment off” says Owen Plater Director of Hockey Operations, Ray McKelvie . “His work ethic, attitude and leadership is second to none. He may have been the most underrated player in the OHL last season”, he adds. Sounds like a winner, pure and simple. The kind of player and person who is reliable, dependable and will play his heart out night after night, season after season. Ray should know as Adam played for his team night in and night out the last two seasons. He is the kind of forward who, as Adam Mair himself stated in a Toronto Sun article, “My game is taking the body and showing responsibility in both ends of the rink.” A Selke award winner? Maybe, someday.
The rosters of NHL teams are dotted with players like this. Philadelphia for many years had Joel Otto. Buffalo has Mike Peca. Florida and now Dallas rode the coat-tails of Brian Skrudland’s leadership. For years, Guy Carbonneau was one of the NHL’s best checking centers with Montreal and later in his career, with Dallas. In their prime, they supplemented their great defensive style with 35 to 50 points per season. Even the Leafs now have a fine checking center in Darby Hendrickson. These players are centers who are frequently leaders, on and off the ice; particularly through their actions, not necessarily their words. They check, they bang in the corners, they frequently shadow the opponent’s star center. They are frequently reliable face-off men, often taking late-game, defensive zone draws. They are usually on the ice late in the game being relied upon to protect that one-goal lead. It is amazing how these players step up in the big games, chipping in with that timely, crucial goal as well. They are typically unsung heroes, rarely getting the morning newspaper sports headlines, but they are absolutely critical to an NHL’s team success.
The 19 year old Hamilton native has been a rising prospect in the Toronto system since being drafted in the 4th round, 84th overall in the 1997 NHL entry draft. Mair was impressive at this summer’s Canadian junior hockey team’s summer evaluation camp. He scored one goal and five assists in four intra-squad games. According to a story in the Toronto Sun, he will most likely be invited back for the team’s selection camp in December along with 31 others. In the Toronto Sun’s article, Canadian junior team director of scouting Barry Trapp said, “I’m not going to say he was a pleasant surprise because we wouldn’t have invited him if we didn’t think he could play. He was one of the better forwards in camp.”
He is a leader by example on the ice, with a quiet but effective never say die attitude. He checks, takes the body and is a responsible two-way forward who can play all three forward positions. He went to training camp with the Leafs in 1997 and was signed to a contract in December of that year. He has played with the Owen Sound Platers of the OHL the past two seasons and saw his offensive production improve from 16 goals in 65 games in 96-97 to 25 goals in 56 games last year. As many players of his caliber do, Adam stepped up his production in the playoffs, scoring 6 goals, 3 assists in 11 post-season games in 97-98. “If I had to compare him to a recent NHL player I’d say Doug Jarvis.” says McKelvie. Jarvis of course was a mainstay on his Montreal, Washington and Hartford clubs throughout the 70′s and 80′s. Jarvis won the Selke award for his defensive play in the 1983-84 season and, of course, played in an NHL record 964 consecutive games from 1975 to 1987.
The 6-1, 195-lb. forward was the 40th ranked North American skater by the Central Scouting Bureau in his draft year. His scouting report listed him as an aggressive two-way forward who is capable of 20-40 pts. a season in the NHL. His defensive and physical play was listed as very good as was his work ethic and attitude. His offensive ability and skating were listed as good. The report stated that he needed to work on his skating ability and raise his overall offensive production. He is a team player through and through and may need to increase his own shot selection to become more productive on the scoreboard. “He has the size, strength and skill to play in the NHL, but his heart and work ethic will be what sets him apart”, states McKelvie.
Mair attended the Leafs’ rookie camp at the four-team NHL rookie tournament in Kitchener which started Sept. 7th and attended the Leafs’ training camp when it opened on Sept. 12th in Hamilton. “We’d love to have him back with the Platers”, says McKelvie, where he’d most likely play on the top scoring line, “but he may very well be ready to take the next step.”
Look ahead about two to three years and you have centers the caliber of Sundin, McCauley, Antropov, Mair, Farkas and Hendrickson in Toronto. Of course, this a futuristic look, but the prospects of that group has to make the Leafs’ coaching staff smile for certain.
So if you look in that crystal ball, you see not only the 10-20 goals that Adam Mair will give the Leafs, or him stepping up when the games are huge, but ALL of those intangible qualities that make him a winner and the team, ultimately, very successful.
Sources: Toronto Sun article by Tim Wharnsby, Wednesday, August 19, 1998
ESPN.com, Central Analyst Sports Service, June 1997
Inside Sports Magazine: Hockey