OCT. 8th, 2013
TORONTO– If you ask Brad Ross, last season never happened.
The 21-year-old Leaf prospect broke into the AHL with the Marlies last season, however much of his rookie campaign was spent practicing and not playing.
At the beginning of the year he found himself on the outside looking in as the NHL lockout inflated AHL rosters with veterans. In the first three months of the season he only dressed in 13 games, often in a bottom-six role, and never saw the ice when the game mattered.
“It was hard,” said Ross, who the Leafs selected 43rd overall in 2010. “I can probably count in the first 25 games I got six shifts. It’s tough to improve that way. This is kind of the start of my career now you could say. I feel a lot more prepared. I took last year with a grain of salt and now I’m ready to go.”
Ross also had to deal with a broken bone in his left wrist, which forced him to the ECHL for a brief stint in February. When he returned to Toronto in March, with the NHL in full swing and a chance to earn more playing time, he finally found some success as he produced four goals and five points in his first four games. However, his role under former head coach Dallas Eakins never grew.
With Steve Spott now in charge of the Marlies, a team that overhauled its roster in the off-season and turned its focus towards developing the younger players, Ross has found a reason to be optimistic.
The first game of the season Spott had Ross on the left side of his top line alongside centre Greg McKegg and winger Josh Leivo. He was also placed on the club’s number-one power-play unit with the responsibility of going to the net.
“I hope to have a really good year,” said the Lethbridge, Alta. native. “This year, with a young team, the opportunities there, I just have to go get it.”
At 6-foot-1 and 185-pounds, Ross comes in smaller than the average sized Marlies’ forward, but that didn’t stop him from succeeding at the junior level with the Portland Winterhawks. His final season in the WHL he produced 42 goals and 82 points to go along with 163 penalty minutes and five suspensions. Never one to back down, Ross believes the same way he played junior will bring him success this year with the Marlies.
“(My game) is not going to change, I’m still going to fight and agitate,” said Ross. “I just hope I get more opportunity with shifts, the power play. Stuff like that.”
Ross had eight goals and 11 points in 40 games last season with the Marlies.