Nfld. & Labrador

This 18-year-old is finding his game, and Russian cab drivers, in St. John's

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev is the youngest player to suit up for the Growlers this season.

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev is newest addition to Growlers lineup

Semyon Der-Arguchintsev fires a shot during a Newfoundland Growlers practice in St. John's on Thursday. The 18-year-old scored 46 points with the Peterborough Petes in the OHL, but is hoping for a better offensive year if he returns to the team next season. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He's 18 years old and preparing for a playoff run on the league's newest team.

He's played only three professional games and speaks a second language. And, according to his team, he's the youngest player in the ECHL.

Luckily, Semyon Der-Arguchintsev has found a familiar comfort in what could be a turbulent time: a Russian cabbie to show him the sights of St. John's.

Der-Arguchintsev stands outside the Newfoundland Growlers dressing room at Mile One Centre in St. John's. Der-Arguchintsev is the youngest player to suit up for the Growlers this season. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"He actually is showing me around here, too, you know, like what's interesting here and everything," he said after practice on Thursday morning.

"I always get rides from him, and he actually worked here a long time ago, even when the guys like [Danny] Markov, like [Nikolai] Antropov played here, he all [knew] them."

For Der-Arguchintsev, "always" means during the past week, since he made his debut with the Newfoundland Growlers only last Friday.

The Maple Leafs draft pick joined the team just in time for its playoff drive, which starts Friday night at Mile One Centre.

"Guys treated me really nice here," he said. "Like it's a really close group of guys here, right? So, and even since Day 1, I came in there and everyone was really nice to me, and that's why it translates on the ice too. You feel more comfortable playing for the team."

Der-Arguchintsev has one goal and one assist in his three games with the team, and on Thursday he practised with the team's power-play unit — a spot that tends to be reserved for the most skilled players.

He lines up on the right side of the power-play formation. He was used to the left, he said, but staff with the Toronto Maple Leafs suggested he switch sides when he attended their training camp in September.

So far, so good for the forward, who says he's calling his time with the Growlers a fresh start after a somewhat disappointing Ontario Hockey League season came to an end.

"Like, stats-wise, I didn't have the year that I wanted to," he said. "I didn't put up the really big numbers."

'That's my game'

In the OHL, with the Peterborough Petes, he played against teenagers. The competition in the ECHL will be much older, and bigger, but he said he's not worried.

"Honestly, like I said, stick to my game plan," he said. "I just do what I do on the ice.… I'm not the biggest guy, I still win battles in the corners. That's my game."

Der-Arguchintsev said he was comfortable with the Growlers. He says they play a quick, offensive style of hockey — just like the Maple Leafs.

"I like to have the puck on my stick a lot," he said. "I felt like I'm in my system right away."

Members of the Newfoundland Growlers watch as head coach John Snowden rallies the team at the end of their Thursday morning practice in St. John's. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Growlers head coach John Snowden said the player meets the hype — which grew after he signed a entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs and was assigned to the Growlers.

"I think he's been good in his first three games, and I think he's only going to get better," said head coach John Snowden.

Growlers defenceman Adam Pardy speaks to reporters following a practice at the Mile One Centre. The Growlers will face the Brampton Beast in their first-round playoff series. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

His transition to a men's professional league has also impressed defenceman Adam Pardy.

"I think about when I was 18, I was nowhere near at that level," he said. "So, really good player, he's got a lot of hockey sense, he sees the ice really well."

Der-Arguchintsev signs paperwork for his first professional contract with Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas. Der-Arguchintsev was only a week removed from his 18th birthday when he signed the contract. (Toronto Maple Leafs/Twitter)

The 18-year-old hasn't had too much free time, with practices and team dinners and the playoffs coming up. But he has developed a bit of a to-do list for his stay in St. John's — a stay that could stretch on if the Growlers are successful in their playoff run.

"I think it's actually a good town, you know, especially try to go to seafood restaurants, try a lot of fish and everything, right?"

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About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.

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