Welcome back to the second in-season Report from the Rock, the column of news and notes from the team at the top of the ECHL standings, the Newfoundland Growlers. I’m a day late on this one, so we’ll cover the stories that have come out of games 6-11 in this edition, let’s dive right in.
On Friday, the Toronto Marlies called goaltender and early-season MVP Keith Petruzzelli up to the AHL, I wrote about him and what the call-up means here, if you’re so inclined to check it out. Add that in to the recall of Noel Hoefenmayer last week and suddenly the team is without some of the bigger names in the prospect pool who have been honing their skills here in the ECHL.
I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, both call-ups are extremely well-deserved, as both Hoefenmayer and Petruzzelli had vastly outplayed the competition in their games as Growlers. However, while Petruzzelli’s call-up was also made in necessity due to the injury in net for the Marlies, I’m not sure if the early season call-up is the best move for the development of these players. Is Hoefenmayer going to develop better playing bottom-pairing minutes with potentially some power-play time in the AHL, or by getting top-4 (oftentimes top pairing) minutes with the Growlers in all situations?
The same can be said of Petruzzelli, though as of time of writing, he has not made his AHL debut yet, so maybe it’ll be fine. Keep in mind though that this player has posted up five starts in the entirety of his pro career so far, wouldn’t it be better in the long-term to have him play against, quote, unquote “inferior” competition to let his skills develop and let him get some real confidence before immediately jumping him upto the next level. And again, I realize Petruzzelli was brought in as an injury replacement, but even if he plays well, they have to at least consider returning him to Newfoundland for the long-term benefits it can bring. This is the vision Kyle Dubas put forth when the Growlers were first revealed, to make the ECHL into a true development league.
That’s enough soapbox ranting for now, let’s move on. Games 6-11 of the Growlers season have certainly been eventful. The team posted up a 4-2 record during these games, moving them to 9-2 to open the season. This stretch saw the emergence of a forward line that has been dubbed the Made Right Here line, featuring Marcus Power, Nathan Noel and Zach O’Brien, three St. John’s locals who’ve played together during summer skates and at different points in the past. The chemistry is apparent, right from their first couple of shifts together, the group have connected on four goals through 6 games together and show no signs of slowing down, though it must be noted that Nathan Noel kind of disappeared from the game after a huge fight last night.
Another grouping that have emerged through this stretch as a go-to line for head coach Eric Wellwood of Orrin Centazzo, Ryan Chyzowski and Issac Johnson (though newly reassigned Jeremy McKenna took Johnson’s spot on that line in game 11). Chyzowski and Zach O’Brien share the scoring lead right now with 10 points each through 11 games. Centazzo has really found a home alongside Chyzowski in the top-6, which is interesting given that he opened the season as an extra forward in game 2, and a healthy scratch in the season opener. Wellwood has been impressed with the player’s speed, shot, and work ethic. The smallest member of this team (listed at 5’8 and 163 pounds) has a huge heart and the points are starting to pile up for the 21 year old, 5 points in 9 games played.
To wrap up, a quick couple of roster moves: Following the call-ups of Hoefenmayer and Petruzzelli, defenceman Trent Bourque was sent down from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose (continuing the official unofficial affiliation with Winnipeg’s AHL squad. Jeremy McKenna was sent down from the Toronto Marlies and goalie Kris Oldham was signed to a standard ECHL contract.
The Growlers season continues Saturday night (though this may release after that game) and I’ll be back for another check in on the team after the first game on the next home stand, which begins December 1st. In the meantime, rumours persist that the team and the city of St. John’s are nearing a settlement in an ongoing legal dispute that saw the team ousted from their normal home arena, the Mary Brown’s Centre, late last month. Stay tuned.
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