When he was 12 years old, Adam Brown would constantly pick the brain of former Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Ron Tugnutt. The aspiring goalie and son of then-Blue Jackets assistant coach Newell Brown would mimic how to strap on his pads the same way the 1986 fourth round draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques did.
However, the current Colorado Eagles goalie always knew when it was time to leave Tugnutt alone.
“When he would go out there for practice I would notice how he would prepare and how he would get ready to go.” Brown said. “He was always focused. He knew how to have fun, but I knew once it started getting close to practice I knew to kind of give him his space.”
It was learning little things like this that Brown has kept with him ever since. Now, Brown’s own preparation and dedication to his craft is beginning to pay dividends for the undrafted, first year pro out of the Western Hockey League.
The five-foot-10-inch goalie from Yorba Linda, CA is ranked 7th in the ECHL in goals-against average (2.42). In 21 games, Brown has put together a 12-5-1 record with a .913 save percentage.
“Focus is a huge key for a goalie,” Brown said. “Whether it’s a game or a practice you have to be focused because you have to be watching the puck and be ready. That is one of the biggest things I picked up from (Ron).”
Brown has started to earn more and more playing time after starting the year as Kyle Jones’ backup. Brownie, as his teammates call him, remained patient as he continued to adjust from the junior level to the professional.
“Obviously, being undrafted out of juniors I was just looking to get my foot in the door somewhere,” Brown said. “Colorado gave me that opportunity and from there I am trying to play the best that I can and help the team out here and get a look somewhere.”
The man to give Brown his first professional opportunity was Eagle’s coach, president and general manager Chris Stewart.
“You look at the guy, who is 21 years old, that was coming in with not a lot of opportunities and he really has proved himself,” Stewart said. “He has done everything through hard work. Nothing was handed to him whether it was at his youth hockey level or the junior level.”
It could be easy to think Brown would have a simple path to the NHL with his father Newell in his 15th year as an NHL coach. Newell is currently an assistant coach for the Vancouver Canucks and last year Brown skated with a couple of the Canuck’s “Black Aces” during the Stanley Cup playoffs when the team was in need of a practice goalie.
Yet Brown says his father has continuously stressed to him that he needs to keep working towards his NHL aspirations even in the face of adversity.
“The biggest thing he has pushed on me is that you can’t get put down if it doesn’t work out for you right away” Adam Brown said. “You just have to keep working and do everything everyday in order to prepare yourself so when you get the opportunity you will be ready to.”
Last year Brown struggled with Kelowna and surrendered a career-high 169 goals while going 22-24-5 for the Rockets.
However, Brown has taken major steps this year in his development by demonstrating solid puck awareness and quick reflexes in goal as he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Tugnutt.
Stewart believes his rookie goaltender has the potential to one day reach his NHL aspirations.
“His future is very bright,” Stewart said. “We have had young goaltenders in here before that went on to NHL careers and I have seen a lot of positives out of him too.”
Follow Justin Felisko at Twitter via @jfelisko