Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Liljegren, Ritchie, Kampf & Robertson

It isn’t all sitting and resting for the remainder of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ players during the All-Star break. The organization is making moves that would give players who don’t have to clear waivers some game action with their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Improved Special Teams Play Key to Playoff Run

In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I take a look at some of the player movements as the team takes its All-Star break. I’ll also take a look at one of the team’s strong offseason signings – David Kampf. Finally, I’ll share the good news that prospect Nick Robertson is back in AHL game action and played his first game last night with the Marlies.

Item One: Timothy Liljegren Is Re-assigned to the AHL

Timothy Liljegren was one of the players who were assigned to the Maple Leafs’ AHL Marlies yesterday. That move gives Liljegren some time to play a few games during the All-Star break. 

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On the season, the 22-year-old defenseman has scored six points and has blocked 28 shots during 27 games he’s played for the Maple Leafs. Fans should look for Liljegren to return to the big club after the break, and it’s likely his first game would be next Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes and former Maple Leafs’ goalie Frederik Andersen.

Item Two: Nick Ritchie Will Also Get Some Playing Time with the Marlies

Given his newfound status as a player who’s cleared waivers, it’s also likely Nick Ritchie will get more game time in with the Marlies. Like Liljegren, Ritchie was re-assigned to the Marlies yesterday.

Nick Ritchie Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Ritchie, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Because taxi squads are no longer active, Ritchie will play with the Marlies going forward. However, he’ll be a recall option if and when the Maple Leafs need an additional forward in the near future. Personally, I haven’t given up on Ritchie and his potential impact on the team during the postseason. He’s drawn some silly penalties this season that would likely not be called during the playoffs when a different “level” of physical play is allowed. 

Item Three: Defenseman Carl Dahlstrom Was Re-assigned to the AHL

Carl Dahlstrom was assigned to AHL Toronto yesterday, where he joins Alex Biega. I think of these guys together because they’re both depth NHL veteran defensemen who were signed quite cheaply during the offseason so the Maple Leafs’ general manager could add depth support on the back end in case of injury. 

Related: Ken Dryden’s “The Game,” Still a Classic

Dahlstrom has played one game with the Maple Leafs and Biega has played two games this season. They’ve been solid enough in their NHL games. Both the 27-year-old Dahlstrom and the 33-year-old Biega would be options for a call-up later in the season if injuries were to hit the team’s defense.

Item Four: Kyle Clifford Also Moves to the Marlies

The final Maple Leafs’ move to the Marlies on Wednesday was Kyle Clifford. Clifford will likely get some game action with the Marlies during the All-Star break. Also, like Liljegren, he’s likely to be back with the Maple Leafs for Monday’s upcoming game against the Hurricanes or whenever the coaching staff feels it needs some grit injected into the bottom six. Clifford is going to be a postseason value addition, I predict.

Item Five: David Kampf Is a Scoring Machine – for Him

Almost under the radar, newcomer David Kampf has put up two multiple-point games in his last three. In his column yesterday, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox called the 27-year-old Kampf “the stealthiest and smartest scoop of the newcomers.” These newcomers include Ondrej Kase, Michael Bunting, Nick Ritchie, and goalie Petr Mrazek. 

David Kampf Toronto Maple Leafs
David Kampf, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fox noted that Kampf has quietly stabilized a checking third line that has been forever in flux. He’s also a whiz in the face-off circle and has been winning a ton of penalty-kill draws. Fox cheekily noted that Kampf had already quintupled his goal output (from one to five) after the modest 2020-21 statistical season he had with the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Related: Maple Leafs & Canadiens Could Make Ideal Trade Deadline Partners

When asked about these additions to the team as part of a mid-season review, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted: “There’s uncertainty about how those things were going to play out and how the chemistry would work and how players would perform for us.” 

Sign up for our regular 'Maple Leafs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Keefe added that “We certainly have learned a great deal of respect and trust for those that have come in here this season. Look at Kase and Kampf and Bunting on the forward end and what they’ve added. And you can see Petr Mrazek now starting to get some momentum. That’s what I would say has been very nice to see. Certainly, it has worked out in our favor and has given us increased depth.”

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Nick Robertson was back on the ice for the first time for game action with the Marlies last night as the AHL Toronto team wrapped up an eight-game road trip with a 4-3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins. For those Maple Leafs’ fans who don’t catch Marlies’ news regularly, the team is now 5-1-0 against Central Division opponents and 2-0-0 against the Griffins this season.

Related: Maple Leafs Nick Robertson: The Cost of Chasing His Dream

After his first game since returning from injury, Robertson told the media that “It was a lot of fun. I’ve been away for a long time and it was the first injury I’ve had where I was off for three months. Today, I just had no expectations. Really just tried to play well and get the rust off and go from there.”

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Robertson, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Robertson has been unlucky with injuries. After being sent down to the Marlies during the Maple Leafs’ training camp this season, he suffered a broken leg in his second AHL game of the season and has been out since. It’s good to see him back. We’ll try to keep fans in the loop about his progression during the remainder of the season.