The offseason news roundup: Report From The Rock
Photo credit:Nick Barden
By Dylan Murphy5 months ago
After a fairly quiet offseason, the Newfoundland Growlers will be returning to action later this month and as such, it’s time to debut season two of Report from the Rock. Things are going to be a little different with this series this year, but stay tuned for all those details and an announcement after the jump.
More so than in past seasons, the majority of the Newfoundland Growlers roster for this season will be provided via players on AHL deals with the Toronto Marlies. Newfoundlanders Brett Budgell and Zach O’Brien are likely to be included in the group of players assigned to the team once Marlies training camp winds down.
The Growlers have in the past received some players on loan from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg’s farm team) but I would not expect this practice to continue into the 2022-23 season given the sheer number of players the Marlies have under contract (the Marlies currently lead the AHL in total number of players signed for this upcoming year).
No offense to the players who have come from Manitoba (including Growlers’ playoff MVP and Newfoundland’s own Tyler Boland) but considering the Growlers’ status as the Leafs’ ECHL development team, the Jets should invest in their own ECHL team if they want to have players developing in this league.
In terms of players that are strictly on ECHL deals, the Growlers are bringing back a quartet of players from previous seasons.
The first player re-signed was the team’s captain, James Melindy, who returns for a fourth season. The 28-year-old right-handed defenseman appeared in 48 regular season games last year and put up 15 points (2 goals). Melindy also appeared in 16 of the Growlers’ playoff games where he added a goal and an assist.
Another member of the leadership group, Todd Skirving, is also returning for a fourth season with the Growlers. The 30-year-old two-way centre is coming off a career high 41 points (21 goals) in 60 regular season games last year. Skirving is also front-and-centre of a new community program called “Todd’s Teammates,” which, per a team press release, will provide a pair of tickets every Newfoundland home game during the 2022-23 regular season to kids who have made a positive impact in the community.
The formation of this initiative was not totally unforseen. Skirving, who is from Thunder Bay, has long considered the city of St. John’s to be his second home.
“My heart’s in Newfoundland, so I don’t really see myself playing anywhere else,” said Skirving at an end-of-season media availability in June.
Another member of the 2019 Kelly Cup Championship team, 27-year-old forward Derian Plouffe, returns for a third season with the Growlers. Plouffe struggled with injuries throughout the 2021-22 season and as such, only appeared in 37 regular season games, but made the most of them, notching 20 points total (6 goals) and adding another 8 points (5 goals) in 14 playoff games as a penalty-kill specialist.
Finally, last week, the Growlers made official the re-signing of Nathan Noel, a St. John’s native is set to return to his hometown team for a second consecutive season. Like Plouffe, Noel (25) struggled with injury throughout the season, only appearing in 28 regular season games and two playoff games. In those regular season games, Noel put up a total of 13 points (4 goals) and 71 penalty minutes.
Other News and Notes
Head coach Eric Wellwood returns for his second season behind the Growlers’ bench. The team released an interview with Wellwood about two weeks ago on their website that contained some insights worth noting.
Wellwood and assistant coach Nate McIver will be appearing at the Marlies Training Camp starting next week to get some early time with possible future Growlers.
“I have some anticipation of a roster, but I think it’s going to change a lot more this year,” he said. “I think there will be more up and down transactions. But that’s just my anticipation, I don’t know for sure.”
Because of the close affiliation with the AHL, the Growlers’ training camp will probably begin later than other teams in the ECHL. According to the league, teams are permitted to begin on-ice training camp sessions as early as October 7 but Wellwood explains in the interview that the Growlers are in no rush to get camp started because of the previously mentioned Marlies camp.
“I expect to get most of our guys here (from AHL camps) on October 10, so our camp will likely start on October 11 or October 12,” Wellwood said.
Lastly, an announcement: Report from the Rock this season will become a monthly feature (sometimes twice monthly) on TheLeafsNation, with an emphasis on progress reports on the players assigned by Toronto, rather than game recaps and team-related announcements or news headlines.
However, that’s not to say there will be less Growlers’ coverage coming from yours truly. In fact, my intention is to step up the coverage in a big way, and bring the fans both here in Newfoundland and in the larger Leafs Nation community who are invested in Toronto’s minor league system. Exact details will be coming soon on my twitter feed (@dylanmurphy329) but what I can say now is it’ll take the form of a newsletter containing recaps of every game, player profiles and analysis, and more. Stay tuned.
More from TheLeafsNation.com
- Inside the Leafs’ development pipeline: Report from the Rock by Dylan Murphy
- Report from the Rock: Closing Time by Dylan Murphy
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