ST. JOHN'S, N.L. – The Newfoundland Growlers have their first player. Marcus Power has an early birthday present.
The Growlers signed Power, a St. John’s, N.L., native and a former major junior and Canadian university hockey star, to a one-year ECHL contract on Thursday. And while the Toronto Maple Leafs organization already has a number of players under AHL deals who will probably see time with the Leafs new ECHL affiliate in St. John’s, Power is the first signed directly by the Growlers.
The deal was a product of mutual interest and ideal timing.
Power, who turns 25 on Saturday, finished a four-year career at UPEI in the spring, just weeks after the Growlers officially joined the ECHL as an expansion club.
“Once I saw a team was going to Newfoundland, I saw it as a way I could stay in North America. That was always my goal, to try things out (as a professional) here after school,” Power said Thursday.
Through his agent, the scoring forward reached out to the Maple Leafs, eventually learning there could be an opportunity to sign an ECHL deal with the Growlers.
He admits he had originally been seeking an AHL contract but came to see the Growlers offer as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“There was a time when you didn’t see many affiliations (between ECHL and NHL teams),” said Power, “but now it really is an affiliation league and a place you can grow your game.
“It means there is a real opportunity to move up to the AHL and for some guys, even to the NHL. In this case, especially, it means you’re part of the Leafs system, plus I know how (pro) teams in St. John’s have been run over the years … always first class. And then there’s the fanbase they have.”
“I couldn’t turn it down.”
A clincher was when fellow Newfoundlander Ryane Clowe was named the Growlers head coach.
“That was actually a green light in my opinion,” said Power, who spent many off-seasons alongside Clowe working out with St. John’s personal trainer Bob Thompson.
“I saw the work ethic Ryane put in as a player, and the results he would have because of that. I expect he has the exact same worth ethic as a coach and that he’ll be a great teacher.
“To be able to start my professional hockey career with him in my hometown was so intriguing to me.”
Power also did some research on the ECHL, talking to friends and former teammates, including UPEI Panthers alumni like ex-linemate Chris DeSousa and defencemen Reggie Traccitto and Ryan MacKinnon, who’d all gone on to play in the second-tier minor pro circuit.
He also sought the counsel of Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson, who had played more than 600 games in the minor leagues, including one season in the ECHL and part of another with the AHL’s St. John’s Maple Leafs.
“They all spoke really highly of the ECHL. They say there’s a lot of skill and that it’s fast-paced,” said Power.
He earned his business degree (with a concentration in finance) this year.
Season GP G A Pts.
2014-15 28 6 20 26
2015-16 25 10 22 32
2016-17 27 9 11 20
2017-18 30 17 12 29