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Some are gone for good, but a few may be back
It’s been pointed out the Newfoundland Growlers have 10 returning players — or half their roster — from the team that captured the ECHL Kelly Cup this past spring. But what about the other half of that championship group, those who aren’t taking part in the Growlers’ second-ever training camp, being conducted in suburban Toronto this week?
Here’s a rundown on the whereabouts of those other 10 players:
• Goalies Eamon McAdam and Michael Garteig — The combined departures of Garteig and McAdam — who together had appeared in 62 games for the Growlers in 2018-19 — easily represents the biggest change to the Newfoundland roster.
McAdam, who had been the starter in the Growlers’ first-ever game, signed an American Hockey League contract with the Binghamton Devils over the summer, but was recently re-assigned to the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder.
Garteig played more regular-season games (43) than any other Newfoundland goalie last season and every minute of the Growlers’ 23-game Kelly Cup quest. Although the voting was never revealed, Garteig almost certainly was runner-up to Newfoundland forward Zach O’Brien as the MVP of the ECHL playoffs.
Garteig, who turns 28 next month, parlayed that performance into a contract with Tappara Tampere of the SM-Liga, the top circuit in Finland, and he’s had a great start to his European career, winning his first three starts with Tampere and allowing just two goals in the process.
• Adam Pardy — The start of Pardy’s 2018-19 season with Newfoundland was delayed by a concussion, but once he got into the lineup, the Bonavista native and veteran of 342 NHL games proved to be the steadying influence the Growlers had hoped he’d be. What’s more, he finished as the top point-getter among the team’s defencemen, with 21 points (6G, 15A) in 41 games. But after appearing in all but one of Newfoundland’s playoff game, the 35-year-old announced his retirement as a player.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Pardy is done with the Growlers. There has yet to be an announcement, but it is expected he’ll be associated with the team in some capacity this season.
• Hudson Elynuik, Kristians Rubins and Alex Gudbranson — These three players are still on the roster of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, although it’s thought Gudbranson will end up in Newfoundland once he has recovered from an unspecified injury.
Most of last year’s Growlers who returned to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization this fall participated in at least a portion of the big team’s training camp, but none got more of a spotlight than Elynuik, the 6-5 forward who had 28 points in 33 games for Newfoundland last season. Elynuik, who turns 22 next week, appeared in three exhibition games with Toronto.
The 21-year-old Rubins, who had 18 points and a plus-17 rating in 56 games for Newfoundland in 2018-19, got into two preseason contests with the Maple Leafs. However, both he and Elynuik are only signed to AHL contracts, meaning they are currently part of a crowded contingent with the Marlies, who have 29 players on the roster at last count.
• Sam Jardine — Jardine, a defenceman, spent most of last season with the Marlies, getting into 10 regular-season games with the Growlers after being reassigned to the ECHL in February.
But Jardine nevertheless proved to be a key addition, registering eight assists for the Growlers in the regular season and eight more points in the playoffs, when logged a lot of minutes and appeared in every game.
Like Garteig, Jardine departed for Europe over the summer. The 26-year-old signed with the Cardiff Devils of the British Elite League and has already played 11 games for his new team, with three goals and four assists in that span.
• Josh Kestner — On a very fast Growlers team last season, there may have been no quicker player than Kestner, the Huntsville, Ala., native who put up 49 points, including 22 goals, in his first professional season and proved to be particular force in the playoffs, when he had nine goals and seven assists.
Kestner, who turns 26 next month, signed with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins this summer, but was recently sent to the Griffins’ ECHL affiliate, which happens to be the Toledo Walleye, the team Kestner helped defeat in the 2019 Kelly Cup final.
• JJ Piccinich — The 23-year-old Piccinich is another of last season’s Growlers who signed an AHL deal with another organization during the off-season, but like McAdam or Kestner, the New Jersey native has been re-assigned to the ECHL. For Piccinich, that means he’ll start the season with the Tulsa Oilers, where one of the goalies is St. John’s native and St. Louis Blues prospect Evan Fitzpatrick.
Piccinich had 31 points (9G, 22A), mostly in a third-line role. for Newfoundland last season.
• Derian Plouffe — Plouffe is another ex-Growler who is beginning the new season with another ECHL team, but in Plouffe’s case, he always knew he’d likely stay in the league, having signed a direct ECHL contract with the Indianapolis-based Indy Fuel.
Plouffe, 24, was an effective checking forward for Newfoundland in 2018-19, chipping in with 13 goals and 10 assists in 56 games.
Like Piccinich, Plouffe will be able to discuss his time in Newfoundland with a new teammate who happens to be from St. John’s. That’s Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nathan Noel, who was assigned to the Fuel last month.