Line of Vancouverite Matt Bradley between Newfoundlanders Zach O’Brien and Marcus Power has been piling up points for the Growlers
Call them the Coast-to-Coast Line. East-West. Heck, call ’em A Mainlander between Two Newfs.
Then again, as Juliet once asked, what’s in a name?
What matters in this case, specifically the Newfoundland Growlers trio of Matt Bradley, Marcus Power and Zach O’Brien, are the points the three are piling up for a ECHL squad that’s shaken off the doldrums of a little three-losses-in-four-games skid to win three straight and seven of their last 10 entering a game against the Adirondack Thunder last night.
Bradley, from Vancouver, is centering the line with a pair of St. John’s products, O’Brien (on right wing) and Power.
The latter two certainly aren’t token Newfoundlanders on an expansion club still looking to find its niche in a market that was home to the American Hockey League for 20 years.
Entering Friday’s tilt at Mile One Centre (details at www.thetelegram.com), the Growlers had 19 goals through four games of this six-game homestand.
And the Bradley-O’Brien-Power unit has accounted for 10 of those, with O’Brien leading the way with five. Power has scored in four straight games.
O’Brien is tied for second in points (29, despite missing 10 games with a broken finger in October and November). Power has 27, and Bradley has 24.
Bradley, who turns 22 on the 22nd of this month, is the youngest of the lot, a rookie who showed enough at the Memorial Cup last spring, helping the host Regina Pats to the championship game, to prompt the Toronto Maple Leafs to sign him to an AHL contract.
As an aside, Bradley was actually drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the fifth round in 2015, and was set to join the team’s AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps, in the spring of 2016 until a separated shoulder in his second-last game of the season in junior shelved those plans.
And as a result, the Canadiens elected not to offer him an entry level contract.
O’Brien, at 26, is the elder statesman of the three and has the deepest resume. A sixth-year pro, O’Brien has appeared in 218 AHL, including 43 last season with the Bakersfield Condors.
O’Brien won a Calder Cup championship with the Manchester Monarchs in 2015, chipping in with three goals and six helpers in 19 post-season starts.
Perhaps the wild card, fresh from the Canadian intercollegiate — aka U Sports — ranks with UPEI.
Like O’Brien, Power was a top scorer in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, finishing second in league scoring to current Detroit Red Wing Anthony Mantha as an overager in 2013-14.
After going much of the summer without any pro offers, the Winnipeg Jets offered Power a tryout with the IceCaps. He was set to attend the St. John’s training camp, until the Colorado Avalanche rang, inviting him to the team’s rookie camp (no doubt, then-Avs assistant coach Andre Tourigny, who coached Power in junior with Rouyn-Noranda, put in a word for the high-scoring forward).
Power, now 25, showed enough at rookie camp to be involved to Colorado’s main camp before he was optioned to AHL Lake Erie.
From there, he was sent to Fort Wayne of the ECHL.
“My family was pushing me towards school,” he said. “I had a really good year in junior, but I never really got the entry level contract I was hoping for.
“I started considering school, a free ride (through the Canadian Hockey League education program) and all that, and I always knew hockey would be there afterwards.
“I thought it was a no-brainer.”
Power was a point-per-game producer at UPEI (not quite, but close enough with 107 points in 110 games), finishing tied for fourth in the conference last season with 17 goals.
Growlers coach Ryane Clowe was somewhat familiar with Power, having trained and skated with him during the summers while Clowe was still playing.
However, other than video, Clowe had never seen Power play junior or university hockey.
“But we still had high hopes for him,” Clowe said. “We knew he could be an effective player for us.”
Through his first half-dozen games as a pro, Power had a pair of goals and three assists, but Clowe wasn’t yet convinced. Power, said the coach, wasn’t skating particularly well, wasn’t playing at the pace required at the pro level.
“In the last three or four weeks,” Clowe said, “he really started to skate and turn it up and be effective.
“He’s not overly thick, but he’s probably one of our heavier players on the puck. And he’s really crafty in terms of his on-ice vision… a very smart player.
“Him and Zach love playing together.”
The two were teammate on major midget teams in the city for two years, including the St. John’s Fog Devils squad that won bronze at the 2010 national Telus Cup championship. O’Brien was the tournament’s scoring leader and top forward.
The following season, O’Brien was skating with the QMJHL’s Acadie Bathurst Titan, but Power was back playing major midget hockey, with the St. John’s Privateers who were playing host to the midget nationals.
In that Canadian midget championship, staged at Mile One Centre, Power finished eighth in tournament scoring with three goals and five assists in five games, and was named the tournament’s most sportsmanlike player.
O’Brien and Power started playing together on the power play earlier this season, and after displaying an obvious chemistry, Clowe elected to put them together regular strength.
Shortly afterwards, Bradley was inserted at centre.
“It took a little getting used to them,” Bradley admitted, “but it was just a matter of getting them the puck and getting open.
“They’re really skilled players, but it’s not just skill. They worked hard, too. They come out of every corner with the puck. They make playing centre for them really easy.”
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort