For Adam Roeder, the summer of 2018 started out as seemingly just another few months in the life of a student-athlete: training to improve on a strong freshman season at Northern Michigan, catching up with old friends home from school, and maybe a little time off to enjoy himself here and there. But then came a call from an old coach—one that happens to be a Hockey Hall of Famer, mind you—and that set the ball rolling on an experience to remember.
“Growing up, Al MacInnis was my coach at AAA for the 1996 birth year,” said the 5’11”, 185 lb left-hander from the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin, Mo., who previously played junior hockey for the NA3HL’s St. Louis Jr. Blues and the Janesville Jets of the NAHL before matriculating to NMU. “[MacInnis] had told me to look at going to NHL development camps this summer, and when he invited me to the Blues camp I was ecstatic, especially because it was in my hometown.”
It was the culmination of a childhood dream for Roeder and one of the final rungs of a ladder of development in St. Louis hockey: from youth hockey with the AAA Blues, to the Jr. Blues, to the big club, even if it was just for a week.
But even if it was a week played in front of packed crowds and constant media presence, Roeder said that his time spent in junior hockey prepared him well for the big stage. “I won’t lie, I was nervous on the first day of scrimmages, but I was able to find my legs, play my game, and I felt I did really well….[P]laying in junior hockey is just such a big step up in terms of speed and physicality, and it definitely prepared me a ton to make it at this level and have this experience.”
At the Blues development camp, Roeder was assigned to Team Tkachuk, which featured several of the club’s top prospects, including World Juniors champion Robert Thomas, Memorial Cup winning goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick, and 2017 1stround draft pick Klim Kostin. While he admits that it was fun to play with such a high level of talent, what Adam said he enjoyed most about the camp wasn’t his teammates, but rather his coaches.
“When we were on the ice, it was awesome to do certain everyday drills, but at a high level,” Roeder said. “It was an honor to work with NHL coaches like MacInnis or [skating instructor] John Standbrook, guys that you know you can learn from and apply those concepts to play a better game.”
Roeder had a quality freshman year at Northern Michigan, with two goals and one assist in 22 games played for the Wildcats, but is confident that his experience—whether from juniors or his week with NHL prospects—can help NMU push for the WCHA championship in the future. “Really I now what to expect, know what to bring in terms of physicality and how to work out right, and hopefully I can get an invite back to St. Louis’ development camp next year—or maybe even some other teams.”