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Newfoundland Growlers’ Brady Ferguson making an impact in his rookie season

Newfoundland Growlers photo/Geoff Hynes - Brady Ferguson registered a goal and two assists against the Worcester Railers and their goaltender Mitch Gillam in a game Nov. 7 at Mile One Centre. Prior to a callup to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies Thursday, Ferguson was tied for the ECHL scoring lead.
Newfoundland Growlers photo/Geoff Hynes - Brady Ferguson registered a goal and two assists against the Worcester Railers and their goaltender Mitch Gillam in a game Nov. 7 at Mile One Centre. Prior to a callup to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies Thursday, Ferguson was tied for the ECHL scoring lead. - Contributed

This Lone Star State’s star is rising

The Lone Star State isn’t a place where hockey scouts are scouring for talent, but Brady Ferguson is helping prove there’s more to Texas than football.

Prior to a callup to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies Thursday, the Newfoundland Growlers’ Ferguson was tied for the ECHL scoring lead with South Carolina’s Grant Besse and Utah’s Caleb Herbert.

The rookie forward has nine goals and 11 assists in 16 games.

The Growlers left St. John’s Thursday for a five-game road trip that begins tonight in Reading, Pa. against the Royals, a swing that includes three games in Florida — two in Orlando and one in Jacksonville.

Ferguson’s callup to the Marlies shouldn’t come as a surprise. The 24-year-old Texan has been on fire of late, with five goals and seven assists in his last half-dozen games.

Ferguson failed to pick up a point in last Saturday’s 3-0 shutout win over the Manchester Monarchs at Mile One Centre. It was only the fifth game this season he was held off the scoresheet.

Growing up in Lewisville, just north of Dallas, Ferguson finds himself in selective company. There are a few Texans in the NHL, but the state — from a sporting perspective — is mostly known for its high school and college football, and certainly the NFL’s Cowboys.

“It’s a different game for people down south. When I was in school, it was like, ‘What? You play hockey? There are ice rinks here?’ And truth is they’re all over the place.

“The hockey community is small. You always know someone, who knows someone.”

Among the NHL players from Texas are Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen, both with the New Jersey Devils, and young Columbus Blue Jackets star defenceman Seth Jones. Winnipeg Jets star Tyler Myers was born in Houston, but moved to Calgary at the age of 10.

As for Ferguson — Manitoba Moose AHL forward Nic Kerdiles is also from Lewisville — he’s a product of the popularity of the Dallas Stars.

Ferguson was not quite five-years-old when the Stars won the 1999 Stanley Cup, but he was playing when hockey rinks started cropping up around the Dallas area.

“They’re all named Dr. Pepper StarCentres, after the Dallas home rink,” he said. “When I was growing up, there were a few. Now there are seven or eight around the Dallas area.

“The game is growing. I don’t think it will ever get to the point where it is in Canada, but it’s a growing game and it’s really cool to see.”

Currently, there are four pro hockey teams in Texas — the Dallas Stars, along with the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, and the ECHL’s Allen Americans. The Americans play in Allen, Tx., just north of Dallas and close to Lewisville.

The North American Hockey League, a Tier II junior circuit, has teams in Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Odessa and North Richland Hills, outside Fort Worth.

Ferguson skated with the Amarillo Bulls.

Houston certainly has a long history of hockey, starting with the Central league’s Apollos in the 1960s, a farm team of the Montreal Canadiens, and the World Hockey Association’s Aeros, made famous by Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty.

While in Amarillo, Ferguson was scouted by Robert Morris University, a small NCAA school in Pittsburgh.

As he continued to impress in the North American league, he began to generate interest from other universities, but in the end opted for Robert Morris.

“As a kid from Texas, I had no idea what Robert Morris was. I didn’t know much about college hockey, really. I was just playing junior, doing my thing.

“But they pushed hard for me. They felt like they really wanted me.”

Ferguson played four years at Robert Morris, averaging well over a point per game. Though he went undrafted — he’s listed at 6-0 and 190 pounds, but in truth falls well below those numbers — Ferguson was invited to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ development camp in the summer of 2017.

Last spring, after winding up his college career, Ferguson signed with the Marlies and appeared in five AHL games.

E’s He’s curremtly

He’s currently on an AHL contract with the Marlies, one of 13 Growlers players who are on AHL deals.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” he said, a day before getting the callup from the Marlies. “Our team is actually treated like an AHL team, from the coaching staff to ownership. You really couldn’t ask for anything better.

“And I love this city. Coming from Texas,” he said with a grin, “I’m used to southern charm, but everyone here just as friendly.”

robin.short@thetelegram.com

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