ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Newfoundland Growlers, ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, are proud to announce that 2019 Kelly Cup champion and Growlers graduate Kristians Rubins made his debut NHL debut tonight with the Toronto Maple Leafs as the club faced off against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rubins was recalled from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies earlier today.
Rubins, 23, a native of Riga, Latvia, played one season in the black, white and gold in 2018-19, and appeared in 56 regular-season contests, recording two goals and adding 16 assists for 18 points. He also appeared in 17 playoff contests that same season, adding another goal and two assists.
The 6-5 blueliner made quite an impact in his one season in Newfoundland. Rubins scored the first ever goal in Growlers history on Opening Night against the Florida Everblades on October 12, 2018. A big-game player, Rubins’ lone playoff goal was a critical game-winning tally in the Kelly Cup Finals, breaking a third-period tie at the Huntington Center against the Toledo Walleye on May 31, 2019 lifting the Growlers to victory in a crucial Game Four.
Rubins becomes the first full-time Growler to graduate from the ECHL to the NHL. Fellow Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren made his NHL debut after appearing in game play with the Growlers, however Liljegren only appeared in one game for Newfoundland on a conditioning stint in the 2018-19 season and was not an everyday player for the Growlers.
The left-handed defenseman was one of the first-ever Growlers to sign an ECHL contract in the summer of 2018. His strong play was quickly noticed by the club’s AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, who signed Rubins to an AHL contract in early 2019. His progression continued throughout the next two seasons, as Rubins appeared in 84 games for the Marlies between the 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons.
On April 2, 2020, Rubins inked his first NHL contract with the Maple Leafs. This season, Rubins has played 16 contests with the Marlies, earning one goal and three assists.
The Newfoundland Growlers organization would like to wish Kristians the best of luck as he embarks on this exciting next step in his hockey career.