The following article contains excerpts from an interview originally conducted in November 2020.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, like any team aiming for long-term success, have heavily invested in prospect development. And in a flat salary cap world, the versatility of good players being able to slot into a lineup for close to league-minimum is more valuable than ever before.
Following in the footsteps of what the Pittsburgh Penguins established years ago with the Wheeling Nailers, the Leafs made a commitment when they established an affiliation agreement with the Newfoundland Growlers in 2018 that the ECHL club would be seen as a true development program for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and beyond. This agreement made the Growlers the entry-level point of a true three-tier development system, as opposed to just another ECHL team where careers would go to die, or players banished from an AHL club would wind up to play out their contracts in obscurity.
The process is slow, naturally, but it has begun to bear fruit. Defenceman Kristians Rubins played three games for the Leafs this past season after beginning his tenure within the organization on an ECHL contract with the Growlers in the team’s inaugural season. Timothy Liljegren is technically a Growlers alumni, as he played a single game with the tea …
Author: Dylan Murphy / The Leafs Nation