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Estephan, Gudbranson ink new AHL deals, bringing to eight the number of players from ECHL championship team who have re-signed
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to work at retaining the core of the Newfoundland Growlers roster that delivered an ECHL championship this spring.
Earlier today, the Leafs announced they have re-signed three more players to American Hockey League contracts with the Toronto Marlies, their top farm team. Two of them, forward Giorgio Estephan and defenceman Alex Gudbranson, were key performers in the Growlers’ march to a Kelly Cup title last month.
The 22-year-old Estephan had 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 69 regular-season games with Newfoundland, putting him fourth on the Growlers’ scoring list. In the playoffs, the Edmonton native was second on the team with 24 points (9G, 15A).
Estephan also represented Newfoundland at the ECHL All-Star game in Toledo earlier this year.
The 24-year-old Gudbranson, a Growlers assistant captain, had 10 points (2G, 8A) and a plus-eight rating in 55 regular-season games and two assists as he played all 23 of Newfoundland’s post-season games.
Both Estephan and Gudbranson appeared in three games with the Marlies last season. That’s the minimum amount of games AHL-contracted players needed in order to be eligible for the ECHL playoffs in 2018-19.
Those rules have changed for 2019-20. A player on an AHL contract now must appear in five games in the AHL to be playoff-eligible with an ECHL team, but only if he is a veteran player, one who has appeared in 260 or more professional contests.
That new rule applies to Gudbranson, but not to Estephan, who was in his first pro season in 2018-19 after having helped the Swift Current Broncos to the Western Hockey League championship.
The other player signed to a new deal with the Marlies was 23-year-old forward Tanner MacMaster, who spent all of last season in the AHL.
The announcements brings to 17 the number of players in the Maple Leafs organization signed to AHL deal for 2019-20. That includes eight who were regulars with the Growlers last season. Besides Estephan and Gudbranson, the others are forwards Matt Bradley, Brady Ferguson, Zach O'Brien, Scott Pooley and Marcus Power and defenceman Kristians Rubins.
Two Growlers who were on AHL deals in 2018-19 have since signed similar contracts with other organizations, J.J. Piccinich with the St. Louis Blues and Josh Kestner with the Detroit Red Wings.