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Spring means tryout season: Marlies sign two to ATOs

As the NCAA and junior seasons wind down, the AHL teams start to try out undrafted players.

Christian Bonin -

ATOs or amateur try-outs are short-term but renewable contracts for players to allow AHL teams to see if the player is worth offering a contract to. Players on ATOs, or the professional version for players from other professional leagues, are allowed to play in the AHL playoffs no matter when they arrived on the team. A notable example of this for the Marlies was Carl Grundström last season.

Today’s new blood on the Marlies are two NCAA forwards whose teams are not playoff bound. The NCAA season comes to an end for everyone in just under a month with the Frozen Four championship game on April 7, 2018.

Derian Plouffe is a centre (yay!) who is listed at 5’10” and 187 lbs, so now we know why he wasn’t even drafted in a low round. He shoots left, is from Nepean, and has been attending Niagara University for four years.

Derian Plouffe via Elite Prospects

Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
2008-2009 Ottawa Senators Minor Bantam AAA OEMBHL 26 14 27 41 18 Playoffs 9 10 16 26 10
2009-2010 Ottawa Senators Bantam AAA OEBHL 26 28 24 52 16 Playoffs 13 14 11 25 6
Ottawa Senators Minor Midget AAA OEMMHL 2 0 1 1 0
2010-2011 Ottawa Senators Minor Midget AAA OEMMHL 30 33 26 59 34 Playoffs 5 5 1 6 6
Ottawa Senators Midget AAA OEMHL - - - - - Playoffs 5 4 1 5 2
Kanata Stallions CHL T1 1 0 0 0 0
2011-2012 Kanata Stallions CCHL 56 17 19 36 20
Kanata Stallions Fred Page Cup 4 1 1 2 0
2012-2013 Kanata Stallions CCHL 57 35 33 68 24
2013-2014 Kanata Stallions CCHL 29 15 30 45 20
Smiths Falls Bears CCHL 7 2 1 3 2 Playoffs 13 3 2 5 0
Canada East U19 WJAC-19 4 0 4 4 0
2014-2015 Niagara Univ. NCAA 32 5 5 10 12
2015-2016 Niagara Univ. NCAA 37 11 7 18 6
2016-2017 Niagara Univ. NCAA 12 4 4 8 12
2017-2018 Niagara Univ. NCAA 35 17 18 35 41
Toronto Marlies AHL - - - - -

A quick look at his stats shows a player who is coming off a very good year after one where he only played in a few games even though he was team captain. An aside — the Leafs love team captains. Plouffe is 23, so we should expect that in college hockey where most of the players are much younger, he would do very well. We should take that into account when looking over his numbers.

I’ve never heard of Plouffe, but as soon as I Googled him, I get headlines about his amazing comeback. Okay, what’s your story, Derian?

On a personal level, Plouffe’s year could not be better. His star is rising, his team competitive, he’s completed an undergrad finance degree and is working toward a master’s degree.

None of these developments seemed possible in late November 2016 when Plouffe was lying unconscious on the ice, his skull fractured from a fluke accident during practice. Late in a session, Plouffe passed the puck to a teammate and was driving to the net when the player’s slap shot deflected off another teammate and struck Plouffe at the side of the head.

From the Ottawa Citizen

The result of that puck to the head, where an earpiece on a helmet would have helped protect him, was a skull fracture and a a subdural hematoma.

After getting released from hospital, Plouffe returned to Ottawa with his parents to convalesce and, through a friend’s connection, was able to get in to see surgeon Dr. Don Chow of the Ottawa Senators. Chow reassured him he would play again, once he gave his injury time to heal. That was big. In the meantime, his balance was still off and his parents pushed him around in a wheelchair for nearly a month.

Hockey parents are amazing.

Okay, let’s look at those 2017-2018 stats again: 17 goals and 18 assists in 35 games, and Plouffe is on the long list for the Hobey Baker Award. The short list for that award will be announced in a week.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on Team Plouffe, and it is a little ironic that a player who started out on the Ottawa Senators kids team and went to college in the shadow of the Buffalo Sabres is getting his chance on the Leafs AHL team.

Joshua Kestner is going to have to go some to match that story. Kestner, a forward, is from Hunstville Alabama. Okay, good start, Joshua. He played some hockey in Sarnia as a kid, so he was obviously good enough young enough for a big move.

He is 24, listed at 6’1” and 181 lbs. He, like Plouffe, has been playing with much younger players in college. And his latest season has been unusual, as he seems to have found his goal-scoring touch. He has been a Hobey Baker listed player twice and he was named to his conference second team just today.

Joshua Kestner via Elite Prospects

Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
Season Team League GP G A TP PIM Playoffs GP G A TP PIM
2011-2012 Flint Jr. Generals NA3HL 44 20 30 50 70 Playoffs 7 2 5 7 10
2012-2013 Sarnia Legionnaires GOJHL 44 19 24 43 66 Playoffs 5 1 1 2 8
2013-2014 Sarnia Legionnaires GOJHL 47 40 30 70 87 Playoffs 7 6 2 8 26
2014-2015 Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville NCAA 35 4 2 6 26
2015-2016 Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville NCAA 26 7 1 8 20
2016-2017 Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville NCAA 34 9 13 22 28
2017-2018 Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville NCAA 37 24 8 32 30
Toronto Marlies AHL - - - - -

When you look up players like this, sometimes it’s hard to find out much about them, but Kestner has a documentary about him. It’s fabulous, and give it a watch to see what southern hockey is like. You won’t be surprised that Kestner is considered a good player, a good leader, and he sounds like exactly what the Leafs look for.

Will these guys work out? Maybe, maybe not. The Leafs look at all sorts of players from all over the world, and sometimes they get contracts, maybe in the AHL, maybe the ECHL. Sometimes the players who come in on ATOs never play in games, but sometimes they stick around deep into the playoffs. It’s an open door for them, an opportunity and all they have to do is make the most of it.