Toronto Maple Leafs AHL Update: Elynuik Re-Signs, 2 More Head to Europe

LAVAL, QC - MARCH 08: Zach O'Brien #23 of the Toronto Marlies skates against the Laval Rocket during the AHL game at Place Bell on March 8, 2019 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Toronto Marlies defeated the Laval Rocket 3-0. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - MARCH 08: Zach O'Brien #23 of the Toronto Marlies skates against the Laval Rocket during the AHL game at Place Bell on March 8, 2019 in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The Toronto Marlies defeated the Laval Rocket 3-0. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs AHL affiliate is already into offseason mode, re-signing their second player and seeing two more leave for Europe.

The uncertainty surrounding the upcoming AHL and ECHL seasons have left the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliates in limbo, unable to sell their players on any real plan for the 2020-21 campaign.

Last week we already saw vital depth defenceman Michael Kapla and Newfoundland Growlers all-time leading scorer Brady Ferguson sign in Europe, and two more Growlers are headed overseas with them.

2019 Kelly Cup MVP Zach O’Brien and Marcus Power have signed with EV Landshut of the German second tier, leaving the Growlers without their top three scorers in their two-year history.

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O’Brien was the Growlers marquee player heading into their first season in 2018-19, signing with the Marlies to be the star for his new hometown team. He was coming off of a solid 23 point season in the AHL with Bakersfield and did not disappoint when going down to the ECHL.

Donning the alternate captaincy, O’Brien was the first leading scorer in team history, racking up 28 goals and 68 points in 53 games and a Second-Team All-Star nod. He was superb in the Growlers championship victory, leading the team in postseason scoring as well with a whopping 16 goals and 29 points in 23 games.

He returned to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization for 2019-20, continuing to produce on Newfoundland’s top line.

Limited to 41 games in the ECHL due to injury and a call-up to the Marlies, O’Brien still impressed with 25 goals and 46 points and would have certainly played a massive role in the Growlers attempt to win back-to-back Kelly Cups.

He’ll be heading to EV Landshut for 2020-21 with Marcus Power, where they will look to help the small team stay in the German second division.

Marcus Power is a slightly more surprising departure. A native of St. John’s just like O’Brien, the last six years of his career have been spent in Eastern Canada. After a strong career with Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL, Power spent four years at UPEI before turning pro in 2018-19.

Originally signed to an ECHL contract in 2018, Power’s stellar rookie campaign earned him an AHL contract with the Marlies for 2019-20. He finished third in scoring that first season with 57 points, often finding himself on the left side of Brady Ferguson and Zach O’Brien.

He returned to Newfoundland this past season to similar success, scoring 24 goals and 50 points prior to the cancellation of the season.

What makes the two departures notable is that both O’Brien and Power are from St. John’s, Newfoundland and were the two hometown stars for the team. In heading over to the same team in the DEL2, the door could remain open for a future return for the duo.

Unlike Kapla and Ferguson who signed in much bigger leagues, O’Brien and Power are headed to a smaller league for a very small club. With European leagues starting on time in the fall, the move could be strategical for the pair to get ice-time in Europe before returning to North America once the AHL and ECHL seasons return.

Though four players signed to AHL contracts in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization have now left for Europe, the Marlies still have a handful of players signed to this point already.

Colt Conrad and Justin Brazeau are entering the second year of their two year contracts, Bobby McMann, Gordie Green, Jeremy McKenna, and Noel Hoefenmayer are new additions from the NCAA and CHL, and Scott Pooley re-signed prior to the cancellation of the season.

Hudson Elynuik is the latest to be signed by the Marlies for the 2020-21 season, marking the second Marlie to return on an AHL contract for next season.

Elynuik first signed a two-year contract with the Marlies in 2018 following a strong WHL career with the Spokane Chiefs. A former third-round pick by Carolina, Elynuik was one of a few players to split time between the AHL and ECHL in 2018-19. He was strong with the Growlers, scoring 28 points in 33 games, and was serviceable in a fourth-line role in the AHL, skating in 10 games for the Marlies.

In 2019-20, Elynuik became the first Growler to truly graduate to the Toronto Marlies, spending the entire season in the AHL. Almost exclusively used in a bottom-six position, Elynuik’s stat line doesn’t jump off the page. In 53 games, he scored 13 points, a modest total for a 22-year-old.

What impressed with Elynuik was his ability to perform defensively as a third or fourth-line centre with a rotating cast of wingers. When on the ice, the Marlies scored 26 goals at even strength, allowing 22 against. That’s good for a 54.2 per cent goals for at even strength, better than the likes of Adam Brooks, Tanner MacMaster, and Matt Read.

We don’t have time on ice data from the AHL, but using estimated TOI, Elynuik’s 12:14 per game was the lowest among Marlies regulars. The offensive ability still needs to progress, but it would not surprise me to see Elynuik in a somewhat elevated role in 2020-21.

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As a 6-foot-5 centre, Elynuik brings an element that isn’t all that prevalent in the Toronto Maple Leafs system. Given his frame, his promising defensive play, and his age (he won’t turn 23 until December), it was a no-brainer to extend Hudson Elynuik for 2020-21.