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It’s likely at least a few of the prospects skating in Toronto this week will end up with ECHL affiliate
Hindsight tells us Newfoundland Growlers fans might do well to pay attention to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospects development camp being conducted this week at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto.
The majority of the 36 young players — 18 forwards, 14 defencemen and four goalies — who began practising Tuesday either won’t be age-eligible to play in the professional ranks this coming season or are 20 and older, but will be heading for, or are returning to, the university ranks this fall.
However, there are a number of players already signed to American Hockey League contracts, as well as a number of free-agent invitees, all who could conceivable play for the defending ECHL champion Growlers in their second season.
Last June, six players who would suit up for Newfoundland in its inaugural ECHL campaign — forwards Matt Bradley, Brady Ferguson, Ryan Moore, J.J. Piccinich, Derian Plouffe and Scott Pooley — attended the Maple Leafs’ development camp.
Players in this summer’s Toronto camp worth watching, at least in terms of being possibilities for the Growlers in 2019-20, include forwards Trey Bradley, Justin Brazeau, Colt Conrad and Riley Woods, all undrafted players who are signed to AHL deals with the Toronto Marlies.
Bradley and Conrad both saw some limited action with the Marlies at the end of last season after finishing four-year university careers. Woods comes from the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, while Brazeau is expected to challenge for a job with the Marlies after putting up 113 points, including 61 goals, as the overage captain of the Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay Battalion in 2018-19.
Another major junior captain, 20-year-old forward James Hamblin of the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers, is in camp, although not yet signed to any deal by the Maple Leafs. Also from the WHL is Czech world junior defenceman Filip Král, a Toronto fourth-round pick from 2018 who turns 20 in October, but isn’t signed either.
Danish defenceman Oliver Joakim Larsen and 22-year-old Austrian forward Lukas Haudum, who’ve both played in the most recent world men’s championship, are in the prospects camp, but are set to skate in European leagues this fall.
Defencemen Mac Hollowell and Joseph Duszak both turned pro with the Marlies in the spring, Hollowell after finishing his OHL career and Duszak after leaving Mercyhurst College and the U.S. university ranks. They’re in camp this week, too, although both have entry-level NHL deals, which makes them more likely for the Marlies’ roster. Only one player with an NHL deal — goaltender Eamon McAdam — was a regular with the Growlers last season.
McAdam, by the way, wasn’t extended a qualifying offer by Toronto, making him a free agent. With Michael Garteig, who joined McAdam on the Growlers’ main one-two goaltending tandem last season, headed to Finland, that makes it even more likely that one of two rookie goalies in the development camp — world junior players Ian Scott and Joseph Woll — will end up in Newfoundland.
American Woll and Canadian Scott are both entering the first years of entry-level NHL contracts.
QMJHL netminder Zachary Bouthillier, a Toronto seventh-round pick who signed a standard ECHL contract with the Growlers late last season (but didn’t see any action with Newfoundland), is part of the development roster. Bouthillier is 19 and has junior eligibility remaining, but does turn 20 late this year.
Finally, forward Semyon Der-Auguchintsev, who impressed with Newfoundland late last season, is among the three dozen player in the development camp, But as good as the young Russian was with the Growlers, there’s no way he’s on Newfoundland’s opening-night roster in October. That’s because Der-Auguchintsev is still 18; he was only able to play in the ECHL this spring because he had finished his junior season with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes.
Growlers’ head coach John Snowden is attending the campo, which is being overseen by Toronto director of player development Scott Pellerin. New Maple Leafs assistant Paul McFarland and Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe are other coaches on hand.