After a season that saw several shallow areas of their depth chart tested, the Toronto Marlies have wasted no time this summer ensuring that they don’t run into the same problems again. After inking Colin Greening, Vincent Loverde, and Chris Mueller to NHL deals with assignments in mind, the team followed up with a couple of in-house contracts of their own, signing Jean Dupuy and Max Novak to AHL contracts.
Neither of these two are expected to be serious threats to Toronto’s top prospects, but they still have a bit to contribute should the opportunity arise. Dupuy scored 79 points in 194 games in the OHL before joining the Rochester Americans in 2015/16. To date, the left-handed forward has 33 points in 120 AHL games, along with 109 penalty minutes.
This won’t be Dupuy’s first tour of duty with Marlies GM Kyle Dubas, who acquired him for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the beginning of his final season running their program in 2013/14. At the time, Dubas specifically targeted the then 19-year-old Dupuy for his ability to play defensive minutes and personality beyond his on-ice skill set:
“Jean is a late birth 1994, who we feel adds an element to our team very similar to what Tyler Gaudet brought us last year, in an area, we set out to address right from day 1. Jean is tenacious in pursuit of the puck and maintains solid possession numbers when he has the puck. This season, though a small sample size, Jean has shown an ability to being a positive shot attempt player while playing a lot of minutes versus tough quality of competition and starting a majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. Jean plays the game in a way that fits the way our coaching staff wants to play it. He is physical but has a purpose to his physicality and is relentless in his effort” began Dubas.
“Though it is not quantifiable, Jean’s character and leadership will also be a key asset to our Program. We are excited to welcome Jean and his family to Sault Ste. Marie” concluded Dubas.
Given that, and knowing that he isn’t a small player by any means at 6’3, 207 lbs, it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to think that Dupuy might have a chance to be a fill in for Frederik Gauthier’s usual role at the start of the year while he recovers from injury.
Novak, on the other hand, is likely more of a veteran add. The 26-year-old will be entering his third AHL season after playing a full four-year term in the NCAA at Union College. In 110 career AHL games, Novak has 29 points to his name, all with a noted once-rival in the Albany Devils. Rick Kowalsky, who has been his coach throughout his pro career, had this to say about him back in January:
“He’s one of those guys who has a comfort zone,” Kowalsky said. “That’s not a negative thing, but you want to get him out of that. You know there’s more. It’s something I’ve talked to him about. He can play a faster game, use his speed more.
“He’s not going to be an overly physical guy, but he has to be hard in battles, hard on pucks. He’s been really good. He’s responded since that conversation we had a couple of weeks ago. You reward him with ice time as a result. That’s what you want to see out of these guys. The big thing for him is to maintain that consistency and continue to be a big part of our lineup.”
Ultimately, it seems like both of these players can play the heavier, more physical minutes and be slotted in for games that require more of that. As far as building a team like this goes, I’d rather have AHL contract-type players fill those roles; it makes more sense than committing one of your 50 NHL contracts or trying to force one of your more offensive prospects to play a different role. I can’t imagine we look back and say that these are the signings that define the team by any means, but it’s pretty safe to say that they help more than they hurt.