After an abbreviated training camp, (the advantages of having an affiliated organization that’s invested in success at every level,) the Newfoundland Growlers begin their season tonight at home.
As has become tradition, the Growlers have a majority of players assigned to their team from the Marlies. Among those names are a number of players who will benefit from much higher ice time than they’d get in the AHL. And those young players may put themselves in a position to earn ELCs from the Maple Leafs.
This season, Report from the Rock will largely be a monthly feature here at TLN focused on progress reports on the players considered Leafs prospects or projects, and while there is no shortage of interesting names on this team’s roster, here are just a few of the one’s I’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on as the site’s dedicated Growlers reporter:
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Brett Budgell is a native of St. John’s making his professional hockey debut this year after five seasons in the QMJHL. In 67 games in the Q in the 2021-22 season, Budgell scored 40 goals and 79 total points. He’s just 21 years old and looks to be slotting into a top-6 forward position here in his hometown.
Orrin Centazzo, 22 years old, is a second year veteran of the Growlers now. The prolific scorer was a point-per-game last season and upgraded his ECHL contract for an AHL one. Centazzo looks to pick up right where he left off on the Growlers’ top line and initial observation of him at practice leads me to think his already-lethal shot has a little extra zip to it.
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Keenan Suthers, at 24 years old, is not exactly a traditional ‘prospect’ per se, but he is making his professional debut after a four-year long NCAA career with the University of Maine and St. Lawrence University. Listed at 6’8 and 245 pounds, he’s easily the largest player on the Growlers and yet, has deceptively good puck-handling skills, not a skill that you see many big bodies possess. He’s projected to play lower in the forward lines, but with a strong showing such as what Orrin Centazzo accomplished just a year ago, he can climb the depth charts and take over a larger role.
Dryden McKay is one half of the Growlers’ goaltending tandem. The 24 year old is the most recent winner of the Hobey Baker Award in the NCAA, where last season he had a .931 save percentage with Minnesota State. Now making his professional debut, McKay will likely get the nod for game one of this weekend’s three-game set against the Reading Royals.
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The Growlers’ full season-opening roster can be found here and for more game-by-game coverage of the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate, feel free to follow along on my Substack newsletter, The Dog House.