Fresh off a historic Kelly Cup Championship in their Inaugural Season, the Newfoundland Growlers look to continue their status as the top dogs in the ECHL heading into the 2019-2020 season with a roster that features 10 returnees from last season, exciting prospects in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization beginning their professional hockey careers, and new faces who have made an impact at the ECHL and American Hockey League level.
In total, the 23 players on the opening night roster consists of three NHL entry-level contracts, 13 AHL contracts and seven ECHL contracts.
The Growlers have two new faces between the pipes this season in Maksim Zhukov and Patrick Munson. Zhukov, a 20-year-old native of Russia turns pro after three seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. A fourth-round draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, he also appeared in 19 games for the Barrie Colts of the OHL last season, sporting an 8-10 record. The 6’3” netminder has also represented Russia on the international stage on several occasions, highlighted by the 2016 Under 18 World Junior Championships, where he recorded a stellar 0.926 save percentage. Munson joins the Growlers as a second-year pro, and spent last season across the pond with the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL where he went 7-6 with a goals-against-average of 2.12 and a save percentage of 0.932. A native of Hugo, Minnesota, he played three years of NCAA hockey with three different universities prior to turning pro.
The Growlers blue line is highlighted by newcomers Mac Hollowell and Joseph Duszak. Hollowell, a fourth-round selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2018 is turning pro after a four-year OHL career with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, where he amassed 183 points in 259 games. The Niagara Falls native was named an OHL First Team All-Star last season after leading the OHL in both goals (24) and points (77) by a defenseman in 64 games. Duszak, a 5’10” native of Franklin Square, New York joins the Growlers following a three-year NCAA career at Mercyhurst University, and was named Player of the Year last season in the Atlantic Division after recording 47 points in 37 games. The puck-moving defenseman was also named a Hobey Baker Finalist, and suited up for two regular season games to go along with four Calder Cup Playoff games for the Toronto Marlies following the conclusion of his collegiate career. Duszak is undrafted, but signed an entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in March.
Captain James Melindy returns for a second season with the Growlers and will look to continue his steady, physical play that endeared him to Growlers Nation in last year’s Inaugural Season. The 6’3” Goulds native suited up in 55 games for the Growlers last season, and led the team in penalty minutes with 165. Other returnees from the championship team include Garrett Johnston and Evan Neugold. Johnston, who switched from #48 to #3 this season, skated in 39 games for the Growlers last season after starting the year in the SPHL with the Birmingham Bulls. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native recorded 19 points last season, which placed him second among defencemen scoring. Neugold, a forward turned defenseman, played in 62 games with the Growlers last season and recorded 16 points.
Tommy Panico, Sergei Sapego and Michael Kapla are all new faces on the blue line this season. Panico was acquired by the Growlers in August from the Worcester Railers, where he skated in 37 games last season recording four points. Sapego, a native of Belarus, turns pro after two seasons in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders. The 6’2” defenceman also represented Belarus in the 2019 World Junior Championships, and recorded two goals in five games. Kapla has 131 AHL games under his belt between the Binghamton Devils and Iowa Wild, and is the only member of the Growlers with NHL experience. The Eau Claire, Wisconsin native skated in five games with the New Jersey Devils in the 2016-17 season after a four-year college career at UMass-Lowell.
The Growlers have no shortage of offense up front, and are highlighted by last year’s leading scorer and playoff MVP Zach O’Brien. The St. John’s native torched the ECHL last season with 68 points in 53 games, and added another 29 in 23 playoff games. O’Brien also has 221 AHL games on his resume and won a Calder Cup in 2015 with the Manchester Monarchs. Last season’s leading goal scorer Scott Pooley is also returning this season, and will look to build off his excellent rookie season where he netted 31 goals, and received a six-game call up to the Toronto Marlies where he picked up two points. Marcus Power will look to be a big contributor again this season after posting 57 points in 58 games as a rookie out of the university ranks, and the St. John’s native was rewarded by the Toronto Marlies for his strong play by signing an AHL contract over the summer.
Rounding out the returning forwards are Brady Ferguson, Giorgio Estephan, Matt Bradley and Todd Skirving. Ferguson was one of only two Growlers to net 30 goals last season, and recorded 58 points in 49 games. The Texas native also received an eight-game call up to the Toronto Marlies last season recording an assist. Estephan, a former sixth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres began his pro career in style last season after a five-year WHL career by netting 20 goals and picking up 53 points in 69 games. The speedy forward also owns a spot in the Growlers history books, by scoring the Kelly Cup-clinching goal at 13:32 of the second period in game six against the Toledo Walleye. Bradley, a former fifth-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens was re-signed by the Toronto Marlies after amassing 45 points in 66 games, and fan-favourite Todd Skirving returns to the Growlers for a second season after picking up seven points in 26 games last season. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native who’s known for his community involvement, also played 19 games with the Orlando Solar Bears during the 2017-18 season, where Growlers Head Coach John Snowden was a member of Orlando’s staff.
New to the Growlers this season are Aaron Luchuk, Justin Brazeau, Trey Bradley, Colt Conrad, Riley Woods and Reid Jackman. Luchuk is the only forward on an NHL entry-level contract, and was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Cody Ceci trade with the Ottawa Senators. The Kingston, Ontario native split last season between the Belleville Senators of the AHL where he recorded 9 points in 27 games and the arch-rival Brampton Beast, neting 22 points in 32 games. The hulking Brazeau, who stands at 6’6”, torched the OHL as an overager last season while wearing the “C” with the North Bay Battalion, leading the league in goals with 61, and placing second in league scoring with 113 points. Bradley joins the Growlers to begin his pro career following a four-year NCAA career with Colorado College, where the Tampa, Florida native recorded 34 points in 41 games in his senior year. Conrad turns pro after four years at Western Michigan University of the NCAA rank, and recorded 38 points in 37 games last season while wearing an “A”. The 5’10” forward also picked up two goals in seven games for the Toronto Marlies last season, and played one game for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup, recording an assist. Woods skated in 65 games last season for the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, amassing 75 points, and Jackman, a native of Etobicoke, Ontario is one of only two forwards on an ECHL contract. The 26-year-old wrapped up his university career at York University last season, and joined the Fort Wayne Komets for 12 games at the end of last season picking up five assists.