Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Liljegren, Ho-Sang, Steeves & Woll

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll recant the false report that young defenceman Timothy Liljegren was moved to the Toronto Marlies. I’ll look at his success recently with the team, and share what Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe reported about Liljegren and why he deserves more playing time with the big team.

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Second, I’ll take a look at some of the young players emerging with the Toronto Marlies and review how their season is going to date. Although the Marlies only have a 4-3 record on the season, several players have emerged as potential stars at the NHL level. I’ll share who I believe those players are.

Item One: Timothy Liljegren False Alarm

Yesterday, when I reported that the Maple Leafs had moved Timothy Liljegren to the AHL and commented that I had found that a curious move, it turned out that it was just that – curious. For reasons that are too complex for me to understand, there was apparently a salary-cap compliance issue. I was curious; readers reacted; and, Maple Leafs’ head coach spoke. [There was no causation between those three events.]

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As it turned out, there was Liljegren skating in Monday’s practice in the same place he played on Saturday night – paired with Rasmus Sandin. Others who were more in a position to know than I were similarly confused and suggested it “seemed like it was just a paper move.”

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When coach Keefe was asked what he saw from the last game that made him decide to keep the same defense pairings together, he reported that he thought the team’s defense core played a lot better. Then he mentioned Liljegren specifically. “I thought Timothy Liljegren, in particular, had a really strong game. For those reasons, we wanted to keep it going and get another look at it.”

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Keefe went on to comment about how Liljegren has improved from previous seasons. Keefe noted first the young Swedish defenseman’s increased confidence. He shared a list of the things he was looking for from Liljegren. Does he have “confidence when he goes into battle or closing in coverage, with the puck in the offensive zone, … is he ending plays defensively? Is he keeping plays moving offensively?”

Keefe’s assessment? “I thought he did a good job of that.”

Toronto Maple Leafs Timothy Liljegren
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Timothy Liljegren (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand)

Keefe then noted that “we want to give him another chance here. It is difficult when you are coming in and out of the lineup and sitting for long periods. We recognize that. We feel like he has earned another opportunity to stick in.”

Item Two: Toronto Marlies Rising Stars

After a shutout loss to the Laval Rocket, the Toronto Marlies beat the Belleville Senators two games in a row. There have been some really consistent players on the Marlies’ roster. Yesterday, I noted that Kirill Semyonov was called up to the Maple Leafs if only to practice with the team. He’s the points leader on the Marlies with a goal and five assists (for six points) after seven games. 

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Josh Ho-Sang hasn’t blinked on his promise to keep his “personal” issues under control and is now the goal-scoring leader on the team with five (he has not registered an assist). He regularly looks dominant with the puck. Obviously, he’s a skilled winger and is showing it.

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But perhaps the player who’s hit the Marlies most by storm has been former Notre Dame NCAA star and undrafted Alex Steeves. Steeves, in two games after coming back from an injury, has scored twice and added an assist. He’s been dynamite on the ice and seems to be exuding confidence in all aspects of the game.

Other players of note include Filip Kral, who’s looking solid on the left side of the defense. Veteran Alex Biega looks like he’s a solid signing for the right side of the defense. Center Brent Seney looks as if he could play at the NHL level if he were called up. 

Filip Kral of the Spokane Chiefs
Filip Kral, when he was with the Spokane Chiefs (Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs)

Finally, the two goalies Joseph Woll and Erik Kallgren are putting together some good games.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Maple Leafs enter tonight’s game on winning streaks after starting the season poorly. The Golden Knights are after their fourth straight win and the Maple Leafs after their third straight. While the John Tavares’ line has been clicking of late, Auston Matthews‘ line has not had a breakout game.

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It will be interesting to see if Michael Amadio, who was plucked off waivers by the Golden Knights on Saturday, will get a chance to play against his old team. Vegas has had some tough luck with injuries and just placed young center Nolan Patrick on the injured reserve. He has an upper-body injury. As well, other Vegas players on IR include forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Alex Tuch.

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But the biggest question for me is how Matthews will play. He needs to start scoring a few goals if he’s going to chase the Rocket Richard Trophy again this season. Right now, he’s eight goals behind Alex Ovechkin on the season.

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