The Newfoundland Growlers, the ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs and former Kelly Cup Champions, unveiled the first seven players signed to ECHL Standard Player Contracts ahead of the 2021-2022 ECHL season
The initial crop includes skaters include St. John’s native, Nathan Noel, three Growlers alumni from the 2019 Kelly Cup championships — Derian Plouffe, Todd Skirving, Garret Johnston. Also making the roster are the high-scoring Western Hockey League graduate, Orrin Centazzo, the former USHL captain, Marc Johnstone and NCAA standout Brendan Soucie.
Growlers Head Coach Eric Wellwood has been hard at work behind the scenes since his arrival in St. John’s and is eager to see this first crop of Growlers skaters on the ice at training camp.
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“There have been so many moving parts over the last few weeks,” Wellwood said. “It’s exciting to take this next step in building our team.”
“We have a great core of players who have experience playing in this market and a lot of exciting new, young players as well. I’m really looking forward to ushering in this next chapter of Growlers hockey with these players.”
Derian Plouffe (26) returns for his second tour of duty with the Growlers. In the club’s inaugural season in 2018-2019, Plouffe — then a rookie — appeared in 56 contests, scoring 13 times and adding 10 helpers and posted a sterling plus-11 plus/minus rating.
Following his rookie season in Newfoundland, the Nepean, Ontario native joined the Indy Fuel for the 2019-2020 season and collected another 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points in just 48 games played.
Plouffe remained with the Fuel for the 2020-2021 season, appearing in eight games and scoring one goal and registering two assists.
Todd Skirving (29) is set to return for his third season with the Growlers following the 2020-2021 season in which he did not play. Last season, Skirving dipped a toe in the coaching world and served as the assistant coach for the Cranbrook Bucks in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).
In two seasons with the Growlers in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native has appeared in 63 regular-season contests in the black, white and gold, amassing seven goals and 12 assists for 19 total points. He has also appeared in five playoff games, including the Kelly Cup Finals.
Nathan Noel is set to join his hometown club. A fourth-round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Noel spent his first three seasons split between Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, and the ECHL, including stints with the Indy Fuel, Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays.
In 71 career AHL games, the 5’11” right-handed forward collected three goals and four assists for seven points. In 62 ECHL contests, he has earned 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points.
While playing his junior hockey for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, Noel helped lead his team to a QMJHL title and amassed one goal and one assist in the 2017 Memorial Cup tournament.
21-year-old Western Hockey League (WHL) graduate Orrin Centazzo knows how to score goals.
The diminutive 5’8” left-winger scored 44 goals in just 63 games as a member of the Kamloops Blazers in his last full season in 2019-2020, finishing eighth among all WHL skaters in points with 81 and second in goals scored.
The Marwayne, Alberta native continued his torrid pace into his final junior season in 2020-2021, claiming 17 points in 17 games. In 260 career WHL games shared between Kamloops and the Everett Silvertips, he recorded 184 points, including 84 goals and 100 assists.
26-year-old South Dennis, Massachusetts native Brendan Soucie has been brought back for the 2021-2022 ECHL season after signing with the Growlers ahead of the 2020-2021 season in which the Growlers did not participate.
Last season, the 5’10” forward elected to suit up for the SPHL’s Birmingham Bulls where he earned three assists in seven games played.
Prior to turning pro, Soucie played four years of NCAA hockey with Army (U.S. Military Academy) from 2016 to 2020, where he was teammates with former Growlers goaltender Parker Gahagen in 2016-2017.
Throughout his collegiate career, Soucie appeared in 111 games with Army over four seasons, amassing 33 goals and 28 helpers for 61 points.
Former Sacred Heart (NCAA) captain Marc Johnstone is excited for his first full professional season on the Rock. Following his final season of NCAA hockey in 2020-2021, he played his first games as a pro as a member of the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, appearing in five games and earning two assists.
The 25-year-old Cranford, New Jersey native spent four full seasons at Sacred Heart University and earned conference First All-Star Team Honours for his brilliant 2020-2021 season, which included six goals and 10 assists in just 16 games.
In 2017, Johnstone captained the USHL’s Chicago Steel to a Clark Cup championship, putting up 15 points in just 14 playoff games.
Winnipeg, Manitoba native and 2019 Kelly Cup champion Garrett Johnston is excited to return for his third season in the black, white and gold.
Last season, with the Growlers opting out of the 2020-2021 campaign, Johnston took his talents to the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, where he appeared in 60 regular-season contests and three postseason games, earning two goals and eight assists for ten points along the way.
Johnston hit his stride in his first two seasons as a Growler, appearing in 96 regular-season games in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, scoring five goals and adding 40 assists for 45 total points.
His strong play in Newfoundland earned Johnston his first AHL call-up, appearing in one game for the Toronto Marlies on March 6, 2020.