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A good start as a starting point: Newfoundland Growlers doing ‘a great job,’ says Maple Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was in St. John’s on Wednesday to take in Game 3 of the ECHL conference final between the Newfoundland Growlers and Florida Everblades. Dubas says he’s very happy with the way Newfoundland is developing as an entry point for prospects in the Maple Leafs’ organization.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was in St. John’s on Wednesday to take in Game 3 of the ECHL conference final between the Newfoundland Growlers and Florida Everblades. Dubas says he’s very happy with the way Newfoundland is developing as an entry point for prospects in the Maple Leafs’ organization. - Joe Gibbons

He envisioned a plan for Toronto’s ECHL affiliate and so far, it’s worked out well

When Semyon Der-Arguchintsev turned pro in early April after his Peterborough Petes were ousted from the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs opted to assign the young Russian to the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers for a playoff audition.

Expect more of the same player personnel moves as the Maple Leafs look to the make the St. John’s-based minor pro team the entry point into their organization.

Kyle Dubas can’t say for sure in which direction minor pro hockey is headed, but the Leafs’ youthful general manager is certain about this: he’d like to see his organization aligned in the same vein as baseball’s minor leagues, with players breaking into AA ball (ECHL), before climbing to AAA (American Hockey League) and perhaps, down the road, to the big leagues (NHL).

“Absolutely, 100 per cent,” said Dubas, in town for Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Growlers-Florida Everblades ECHL Eastern Conference final series at Mile One Centre.

“Consider a player like Semyon,” he said of the 18-year-old, third-round Leafs’ draft pick from a year ago. “We want players like that to come in here rather than go to the (AHL’s Toronto) Marlies.

“Our plan for the organization in terms of the Growlers has been to have this team be a starting ground for our prospects when they enter pro hockey, and graduate up to the Marlies and one day the Leafs.”

Dubas is familiar with St. John’s, having been a semi-regular visitors during the IceCaps’ days in the AHL, when he was the Marlies’ GM.

“We want to use (the Growlers) for everybody entering the organization … players, coaches, trainers and medical people. We want a close connection throughout the entire organization. We want it all aligned.”

Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas

When he was handed the keys to Toronto’s general manager’s office exactly one year and six days ago, Dubas began envisioning realigning the minor league system to include a fully-involved ECHL affiliate.

Prior to the Growlers, Toronto had a working ECHL arrangement with the Orlando Solar Bears.

Other NHL teams have formal and informal agreements for the placement of prospects with ECHL teams, but most involve goaltenders.

“We,” said Dubas, “want to use it for everybody entering the organization … players, coaches, trainers and medical people.

“We want a close connection throughout the entire organization. We want it all aligned.

“We’ve hammered home the organizational ethos of what we want in terms of our playing style, and they’ve (Growlers coaches) stuck with it when it would have been easy to get away from it against different teams in different series, to put different players in to play a different style.

“The staff here (under head coach John Snowden) has done a great job to ready the players night in and night out.”

The idea of a AA-AAA, ECHL-AHL concept can help the Maple Leafs in a business sense as well. NHL teams have 50 NHL contracts to offer, and it’s no secret the Leafs could be running into salary cap hurdles sooner rather than layer.

Under Dubas’s concept, it’s possible young players destined for the minors could be signed to AHL-ECHL contracts.

“Considering our salary cap situation in the coming years,” he said, “we need to have player development through the system. With this scenario, we feel it gives them a better chance at becoming Leafs.”

robin.short@thetelegram.com

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