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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 7, 2020
Greg Moore’s summation of Hudson Elynuik as it pertained to hockey was rather uncomplicated.
Moore took over as coach of the Toronto Marlies on Dec. 1 after Sheldon Keefe was promoted to the Maple Leafs in November, and by the time the American Hockey League was put on pause in March because of the coronavirus global pandemic, Moore had come to a conclusion regarding Elynuik.
“He was our most improved forward,” Moore said during a recent interview with the Toronto Sun. “He had a lot of growth in the sense of the work he put in, in the weight room.
“You could tell before the pause that he was much stronger on his feet, had a little more power in his step and that allowed him to have a little more of a dominant role in the offensive zone.”
It wasn’t as though Elynuik arrived on the doorstep of the Marlies last fall with a difficult road ahead to becoming an impactful player in the AHL.
In 2018-19, Elynuik helped the Newfoundland Growlers win the ECHL championship, contributing 15 points in 16 games in the march to the Kelly Cup. Also that season, Elynuik dipped his toe into the AHL, scoring once in 10 games with the Marlies.
While representing the Leafs at the Detroit Red Wings rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., last September, Elynuik told us his objective for the coming season was to make his mark with the Marlies.
It took some time for the centre for that goal to be realized, but by the time play was halted, Elynuik had accomplished as much.
“It just goes back to getting more confident throughout the season,” Elynuik said from Calgary, where he has been training since the AHL season was halted and later cancelled. “At first, I wouldn’t say I was nearly as confident as I was going down the last stretch of the season. I think that showed.
“Getting more comfortable with my game, I showed my skills a lot more, it was about getting confidence.”
Elynuik had five goals and eight assists in 53 games when the season came to a sudden end, and had grown into an effective penalty killer for the Marlies.
From Moore’s viewpoint, the improvement in Elynuik’s performance was a testament to the player’s outlook.
“It was just the work he did,” Moore said. “We laid it out there in front of him, and he was willing to buy into the game plan and the schedule and the workouts. He definitely found a way to better himself and got rewarded for it.
“I would not say it was a survival instinct, but when you’re trying to earn more ice time and more responsibility from the coaching staff, any extra responsibility you can gain on special teams, on the penalty kill, different areas, any player should be looking to add that to their game.”
A couple of factors that few players have at their fingertips were put to use by Elynuik. One was the experience of winning a championship with the Growlers, and the other a regular opportunity, if he desired, to lean on his dad Pat, who played in 506 National Hockey League games with Winnipeg, Washington, Tampa Bay and Ottawa in a pro career that ended in 1997.
“Not everyone has a dad who has been through the exact path I want to go,” Elynuik said. “He knows what it takes and the commitment and the work ethic that has to go into it.
“He went through ups and downs and adversity throughout his career. Same process, so he has a lot of experience and input on the journey.”
Elynuik’s determination during the 2019-20 season ended with a deserving result, as the 22-year-old signed a one-year AHL contract with the Marlies in June. And with the salary cap issues the Leafs are going to have to meet head-on in the coming seasons, Elynuik realizes that further progress could lead to a better shot with the Leafs at some point.
“I’m really excited for next year and to just keep moving forward with my development,” Elynuik said. “I’m going to do what I can to get an entry-level deal this upcoming season and I’m working really hard this summer. I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen.
“Trying to fill out my (6-foot-5) frame, put some weight on — that will help me with strength around the whole rink. You can always work on everything — quickness, my shot, I want to put the puck more in the net in the next season.
“I want to be a a two-way centre who can play a big role, that contributes putting the puck in the net or creating offensive opportunities and at the same time being reliable defensively and keeping the puck out of our net.”
THE FILE ON ELYNUIK
AGE: 22 (Oct. 12, 1997)
HOMETOWN: Calgary, Alta.
HEIGHT: 6-foot-5, WEIGHT: 194 pounds
POSITION: Centre, SHOOTS: Left
DRAFTED: 2016, third round, 74th overall by Carolina
THE SKINNY: Originally signed with the Marlies in 2018 after the Hurricanes let him go without a contract … In his last season of junior with the Spokane Chiefs in 2017-18, recorded 86 points (31 goals and 55 assists) in 71 games … Positive energy? You bet. “He’s a fun-loving kid,” Marlies coach Greg Moore said. “The whole team loves being around him.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020