The use of the ECHL as a depth league for player development has really been embraced by Kyle Dubas’ Leafs team. The success of the team shows the usefulness of this team and has a few hidden gems to get excited about, too!
For reference, the Newfoundland Growlers are currently 35-11-0-1 on the season, including a huge home winning streak in this, their ECHL Championship season after toppling the opposition in pretty ridiculous fashion last season. Here are three young, exciting prospects to get hyped about:
Angus Redmond – Goalie
The Langley BC Native has strung together quite the season for the Growlers, stepping up from behind the more well-known Maksim Zhukov to steal some starts. Of his fourteen appearances this season, twelve have been starts and Redmond is 12-0 on the year.
His growing sample size put some meat behind his ridiculous stats. Currently, Redmond is sitting at a .916 S% with a 2.41 GAA. Those aren’t necessarily Vezina winning numbers, but in the ECHL the skill level varies massively, and with it, the scores generally are a little inflated. Redmond’s ability to backstop the Growlers to wins (exclusively) is nothing to shake a stick at.
The 25-year-old is proving the adage about goaltender development is still right – goalies generally need more time to develop. That being said, the three-year ECHL goaltender is finding his stride in the well-structured Newfoundland Growlers organization.
Aaron Luchuk – Forward, C
Possibly recognizable as an asset acquired in the Nikita Zaitsev – Cody Ceci trade, Aaron Luchuk is proving to be A LOT more than just an add-in piece to an NHL deal. The point-producing center has always been able to generate offense in his minor league career, scoring 50+ points in four consecutive seasons in the OHL split between Windsor and Barrie.
He managed 22 points in 32 games for the Brampton Beast (ECHL) last season but has exploded on the Newfoundland scene this year. With 47 points in 41 games, 18 goals and 29 assists, Luchuk has a 1.15 ppg. At just 22-years-old, it’s clear Luchuk has a role within the Leafs system and will likely graduate to the Marlies either this season for the playoff push or in the near future.
With center depth lacking organizationally but not a massive need on the Leafs current roster, Luchuk has the systematic support to marinade and develop at a natural and unrushed pace, which should help him develop, hopefully, into an NHL player.
Justin Brazeau – Forward, RW
Maybe the most well-known prospect on the Growlers’ team, Justin Brazeau was signed to a two-year deal last season as an over-ager coming out of the North Bay Battalion in the OHL. Last year, Brazeau had 113 points in 68 games, a strong follow to his 75 point season a year prior.
Brazeau has kept up his goal-scoring abilities in the ECHL with 40 points in 44 games played, giving him a .91 ppg. Of his 40 points, Brazeau is spreading the puck around well, too, with 18 goals and 22 assists splitting his production.
There is no question that Brazeau can put the puck in the net, but the criticism on Brazeau is his skating ability. Playing against older prospects and players in the ECHL, Brazeau can develop this and push forward to the Marlies eventually. At just 22-years-old, Brazeau has plenty of time to focus on his player development and grow into a more complete player.