In a surprise move, Maple Leafs 2018 seventh round pick, Zachary Bouthillier has signed with the ECHL affiliate of the Leafs, the Newfoundland Growlers, for the remainder of this season. This deal is a standard player contract, not a tryout deal.
In the ECHL, at the end of the season, players who were under contract to the teams can be chosen for a reserve list which gives that team exclusive rights to the player the next year. ECHL contracts are always just for one season at a time.
Bouthillier was a surprise pick at the draft. Taken with the seemingly token pick that the Leafs received for trading away Jhonas Enroth, he was not absolutely expecting to be taken, and with a hometown of Chambly, QC, he was really not expecting to go to the Leafs.
He and his family learned how to love blue and white with no rouge, and they all showed up to support him at the Leafs prospects tournament in Laval where he played well.
During his season in the QMJHL, he was traded to one of the worst teams in the league:
The remainder of the season saw him face an incredible pace of shots as the Sea Dogs continued their downward trend. He finished the regular season with a save percentage of .885, which no one should hold against him.
With the junior season over, he’s going from Saint John to St. John’s and from the basement to the top of the heap. The Growlers currently lead their division, and are third in the ECHL by points percentage.
They have two other goalies, Eamon McAdam, who was acquired by the Leafs in the Matt Martin trade and Michael Garteig, who began the season on an ECHL contract, but was bumped up to an AHL deal midway through. Bouthillier will be the only goalie on an ECHL deal on the team.
The PPP masthead talked this over, and we don’t know of a situation where a player signed an SPC in the ECHL out of junior hockey and then returned to junior. Bouthillier turns 20 this November, so he is eligible. He might be allowed to, but generally if a junior player is offered some minor league time out of junior, it’s on an ATO like Ian Scott on the Marlies last year. We’re not absolutely sure of the implications here, but it sure seems like he’s going pro. Of course, an SPC pays him more money than an ATO does.
The Maple Leafs have his NHL rights for one more year until the summer of 2020.
The Growlers have eight more games in their regular season, and then the playoffs to play.