There’s a measurement tool that has always worked against Coquitlam’s Adam Rockwood in the eyes of pro hockey scouts. That’s why the phrase the Coquitlam kid uses to describe his time at the Vancouver Canucks development camp last week is a tad ironic.
“It was a cool experience, and it was a good measuring tool to see where I was at. I’m just excited to use what I learned going forward,” said Rockwood. “I felt that I matched up pretty well. It wasn’t too daunting.”
The measuring tape shows the 22-year-old Rockwood is five-foot-10. He played in three seasons for the Coquitlam Express, including scoring 13 goals and 74 points in 57 games in his final season (2013-14), which put him fifth in BCHL scoring that campaign.
He then spent two seasons playing for the University of Wisconsin Badgers where he had five goals and 30 points in 60 games. But then he got cut and had to sit out a season before joining the Northern Michigan University Wildcats this past year scoring eight goals. His 40 assists, though, were the most in college hockey last season earning the undrafted player an invite by several NHL teams to their development camps.
He picked the Canucks for a variety of reasons, including not having to travel to the camp. NCAA rules require any collegiate player to pay his own way to any NHL development camp.
“Vancouver was a good fit, looking at roster now gives me a better opportunity. I hadn’t been home since last August, I figured at least I’ll be home,” said Rockwood, who added he talked to the Canucks a lot while playing for the Express.
In addition to joining the other campers in activities like clinging to a zipline in Whistler, axe throwing, a cooking class, the Grouse Grind and on-ice drills, he got to play in an intra-squad game in front of thousands of diehard Canucks fans at Rogers Arena. And, for a change, in front of about 25 family and friends.
“The compete level out there was pretty good,” said Rockwood, who had a few gilt-edged scoring chances connecting on one of them on a breakaway. “It was kind of frustrating, I couldn’t capitalize on those. It was nice to score on one of them.
“It was pretty cool for my family and friends to see that … I don’t get many personal fans to college games, but I know they watch online all the time.”
In going up against some of the Canucks’ prized picks from the draft and the likes of Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres and Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings in their collegiate days, Rockwood believes he’s measured up well.
He’ll take his latest experience back to NMU, which is in Marquette on the south shore of Lake Superior, with the hope of eventually signing a pro contract.
“You never know. My plan is to go back and play my senior year of college, and then scope out what it leads to in the long run,” said Rockwood. “I’m always optimistic, but never thinking too far ahead of myself.
“My goal this year is to have 50 [assists]. Both of my linemates are coming back, and so is everyone that plays on the powerplay. I won at the BCHL level and I really want to win at the college level.”
The atmosphere in a college town of about 20,000 on Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula is invigorating for Rockwood.
“It’s an interesting dynamic. We’re the only thing around there, the big thing everyone cheers for,” said Rockwood. “They know their hockey, and they want to see good hockey played.”
Of their 25 wins, 17 came at home for the Wildcats. “We gave them a lot to cheer about.”
Rockwood will spend the rest of this summer working out with NMU teammate Darien Craighead (son of former Canuck John Craighead) and a couple of good buddies he would like to measure up to. That would be former bantam linemate Nic Petan of the Winnipeg Jets and another Coquitlam kid you might have heard of, NHL rookie of the year Matthew Barzal of the New York Islanders.