ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland – The Newfoundland Growlers, ECHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced the first seven players signed to contracts ahead of the 2021-22 season. This initial crop of seven skaters includes three returning Growlers from the 2019 Kelly Cup championship squad - Derian Plouffe, Todd Skirving and Garrett Johnston; one Newfoundland native - Nathan Noel; a high-scoring Western Hockey League graduate - Orrin Centazzo; former United States Hockey League captain Marc Johnstone and NCAA standout Brendan Soucie. Plouffe, 26, returns for his second tour of duty with the Growlers. In the club’s inaugural season in 2018-19, Plouffe, then a rookie, appeared in 56 contests, scoring 23 points (13g-10a) while posting a +11 rating. Following his rookie season in Newfoundland, the Nepean, Ontario native joined the Indy Fuel for the 2019-20 season, and collected another 29 points (13g-16a) in 48 games played. He remained with the Fuel for the 2020-21 season, appearing in eight games with three points (1g-2a). Skirving is set to return for his third season with the Growlers following the 2020-21 season in which he did not play. Last season, Skirving dipped a toe in the coaching world and served as the assistant coach for the Cranbrook Bucks in the British Columbia Hockey League. In two seasons with the Growlers in 2018-19 and 2019-20, the Thunder Bay, Ontario native has appeared in 63 regular-season contests amassing 19 points (7g-12a). He has also appeared in five playoff games, including the Kelly Cup Finals. St. John’s native Nathan Noel is set to join his hometown club. A fourth round selection of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Noel spent his first three seasons split between Chicago’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, and the ECHL, including stints with the Indy Fuel, Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays. In 71 career AHL games, he has collected seven points (3g-4a) while adding 18 points (10g-18a) in 62 career ECHL contests. While playing his junior hockey for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Noel helped lead his team to a QMJHL title and amassed two points (1g-1a) in the 2017 Memorial Cup Finals. Centazzo scored 44 goals in 63 games as a member of the Kamloops Blazers in his last full season in 2019-20, finishing eighth among all WHL skaters in points with 81 and second in goals scored. The Marwayne, Alberta native continued his torrid pace into his final junior season in 2020-21, claiming 17 points in 17 games. In 260 career WHL games shared between Kamloops and the Everett Silvertips, he recorded 184 points (84g-100a). Soucie has been brought back for the 2021-22 season after signing with the Growlers ahead of the 2020-21 season in which the Growlers did not participate. Last season, he suited up for the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Birmingham Bulls where he earned three assists in seven games played. Prior to turning pro, Soucie played four years of college hockey with Army from 2016-20, where he tallied 61 points (33g-28a). Former Sacred Heart University captain Marc Johnstone enters his first full professional season. Following his final collegiate season in 2020-21, he played his first games as a pro as a member of the South Carolina Stingrays, appearing in five games and earning two assists. The 25-year-old Cranford, New Jersey native spent four full seasons at Sacred Heart and earned conference First All-Star Team Honours for his 2020-21 season, which included 16 points (6g-10a) in 16 games. In 2017, Johnstone captained the USHL’s Chicago Steel to a Clark Cup championship, putting up 15 points in 14 playoff games. Winnipeg, Manitoba native and 2019 Kelly Cup champion Garrett Johnston returns for his third season in Newfoundland. Last season, with the Growlers opting out of the 2020-21 campaign, Johnston played for the Utah Grizzlies, where he appeared in 60 regular-season contests and three postseason games, earning 10 points (2g-8a) along the way. Johnston hit his stride in his first two seasons as a Growler, appearing in 96 regular-season games in 2018-19 and 2019-20, scoring 45 point (5g-40a). His strong play in Newfoundland earned Johnston his first AHL callup, appearing in one game for the Toronto Marlies on March 6, 2020.
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