The Toronto Maple Leafs season may not be over, but changes throughout the organization are already coming.
With the cancellation of the AHL and ECHL seasons, players under contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate are looking towards the 2020-21 season.
The Marlies and Newfoundland Growlers have had a lot of roster continuity the past two seasons, but with the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 AHL and ECHL seasons, they could be facing an exodus of players.
Toronto Maple Leafs Lose 2 Prospects
Kapla joined the Toronto Maple Leafs organization last summer, looking to crack the Marlies blueline after a solid season with the Binghamton Devils and Iowa Wild. He was unable to do so out of camp, going down to the Growlers were he emerged as their top all-around defenceman.
Of course, that unit didn’t last much longer than the halfway mark of the season with Duszak and Hollowell getting the permanent call up to the Marlies.
As for Kapla, he would find his way up to the Marlies for 14 games in 2019-20, often as the number one recall option. He performed very well in those games as well, picking up six points.
I’m sure the Toronto Maple Leafs would’ve loved to keep him in the organization as a depth defenseman, but with the uncertainty of the AHL and ECHL season’s, Kapla has elected to try the European route.
He has signed with Vasterviks IK of the Swedish second tier, where he will look to help push the club towards promotion to the SHL.
The bigger loss to the organization comes in Brady Ferguson, the Growlers leading scorer in their two-year history.
Signed after a stellar college career at Robert Morris University, Ferguson came out of the gates swinging in his professional career. With four points in his five-game AHL trial at the end of the 2017-18 season after being signed, Ferguson was a promising Marlies prospect that was expected to do big things with the newly formed Newfoundland Growlers.
And that he did. Ferguson was dominant in 2018-19 with Newfoundland, scoring 30 goals and 58 points in 49 games to finish second in team scoring. He was also a major component in the Growlers Kelly Cup championship, scoring another 24 points in 23 playoff games.
Signs pointed towards Ferguson getting an extended shot with the Marlies in 2019-20 after his dominant season, but that never came to fruition.
After getting eight AHL games in 2018-19, Ferguson got just one this past season. He spent nearly the entire season with Newfoundland, scoring 63 points in 57 games to lead the team in scoring.
Newfoundland was all set to go on another deep run in the Kelly Cup Playoffs and were favourites to repeat as champions, but the opportunity was robbed from Ferguson and co. when the season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
At 25 years of age and yet to get a true shot in the AHL, Ferguson has decided to sign with Rogle BK of the SHL, the same program that has produced Toronto Maple Leafs defensemen Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin.
Ferguson will immediately become one of Rogle’s top offensive weapons, looking to garner more attention playing in a higher profile league in Europe.
Personally, I was very surprised that Ferguson never received an extended look with the Marlies given his record with the Growlers.
Even when injuries hit in 2019-20, looks were given to Tanner MacMaster and Hudson Elynuik rather than Ferguson. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Brady Ferguson putting up big numbers in Europe and see a potential return to North America with an entry-level contract down the road.
As we continue into the summer, we will be getting much more news regarding the status of the AHL and ECHL seasons, which will certainly play into the Marlies and Growlers ability to retain players for the 2020-21 season.
Given Ferguson and Kapla’s exits, we could see a very different mix of Marlies depth and certainly a significantly changed Growlers team.