The Newfoundland Growlers are one of the ECHL’s newest teams, and they now officially have an NHL affiliation. The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that they have agreed to an affiliation with the Growlers that will begin in 2018-19, and will continue the three-tiered development system they previously had with the Orlando Solar Bears.
Toronto has been a leader over the last few years in really using their ECHL roster to its full player development potential. For a long time the lower minor league has been seen as nothing but a staging ground for players who would never see the NHL, but it’s now being used as an opportunity for raw prospects to work on individual skills or goaltenders to round out their games by seeing a lot of game action. The Maple Leafs have used it for players like Martins Dzierkals, Mason Marchment and Garret Sparks, and will continue to do so to try and supplement their AHL and NHL rosters with highly regarded talent.
Now back in Canada, the affiliation will return to St. John’s where the Maple Leafs previously held their AHL team. Speaking of the commitment they’ve made to the community and team, new GM Kyle Dubas released this statement:
We are excited to begin our relationship with the Newfoundland Growlers as our newest ECHL affiliate. This is an important investment for our hockey club as we remain committed to giving our players the best resources possible to ensure their development and professional success. To now have our ECHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland, a town and province which has historically meant a lot to the Maple Leafs, is a truly special opportunity.
The Growlers will debut in 2018-19 and try to take home a Kelly Cup, something that should be up for grabs now that the Colorado Eagles are advancing to the AHL. The Eagles have won back-to-back championships but will become the primary AHL affiliate for the Colorado Avalanche next season.