Maple Leafs’ Prospect Report: Sandin’s Growth & Liljegren NHL Ready?

With the World Junior Championships over and players returning to their respective teams – including the trio of Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospects – it’s time to check in on a few of the players the Maple Leafs have in their pipeline.

With injuries playing a major factor for the big club, the Maple Leafs have made a number of call-ups this season opening up opportunities for a handful of their young prospects. While players like Adam Brooks and Pierre Engvall have remained with the big club – for now – others are still working at earning their opportunity with the Maple Leafs’ affiliates and in other leagues.

With that, here’s an updated look at how some of the Maple Leafs’ prospects are making out with their respective leagues.

Sandin Continuing to Grow in AHL

There was some speculation that the Maple Leafs would recall Rasmus Sandin following his incredible run at the WJC for Sweden. The young defenceman – who started the season with the big club – was named to the tournament’s all-star team and was also named the tournament’s top defenceman.

However, the bronze medalist returned to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies for now where he’s seen some incredible growth over the past few months. In 19 games with the Marlies, he has two goals and 12 points.

Toronto Maple Leafs Rasmus Sandin
Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin had a great showing at the World Juniors for Sweden. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

As for the team, they are sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference and utilizing the team’s depth to make themselves an organization that thrives on their winning culture. It’s a culture that could be really good for a young player like Sandin to experience.

As for what Sandin thinks about his role with the Marlies, the young defenceman knows that it’s a good opportunity for him to grow.

“It was just good to be around the big names (with the Leafs in October) and great hockey players and just see how they act on and off the ice, I learned a lot from them,” he said in post-WJC interview. “But at the same time, coming down and playing a lot, it gives you a lot of confidence. That’s how you build your game. Both ways are good, but right now I’m with the Marlies and I’m excited for that.” (from ‘Leafs prospect Sandin fine with continuing to grow with Marlies after terrific world junior’, Toronto Sun – 1/8/20)

Up to this point, Sandin has had a small taste of different levels of the game and is taking away different aspects from each experience. While he will remain a part of the Marlies, for now, it won’t be long until he’s back up with the Maple Leafs – especially after such a standout performance at the World Juniors.

2019-20 Stats:
Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) | 6 GP | 0 G | 2 A | 2 PTS | 2 PIM | +/- 0
Sweden U20 (WJC-20) | 7 GP | 3 G | 7 A | 10 PTS | 6 PIM | +3
Toronto Marlies (AHL) | 19 GP | 2 G | 10 A | 12 PTS | 15 PIM | -2

Liljegren Ready for the NHL?

While Sandin continues to log minutes in the AHL, he’s made his thoughts known regarding his teammate and fellow Swede Timothy Liljegren. In a recent piece from Sportsnet, Sandin explains that Liljegren’s play – as of late – is on the verge of NHL calibre play and that shouldn’t be long before his fellow defenceman is playing at the NHL level.

“It’s not very easy to crack the ‘D’ roster here on the Leafs,” said Sandin in the article. “They’ve got really good defencemen. But he’s doing a really good job down here and he’ll be up there soon enough. I think if we both do the right things here, I think we can both do some great things with the Leafs.”

Marlies defenseman Timothy Liljegren
Liljegren is making strides as a 20-year-old to get to the next level. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As for Liljegren, the 20-year-old has four goals and 22 points in 31 games in his third season with the Marlies. His 22 points is good enough for fourth on the team in scoring and tied for 11th among defencemen in the AHL.

While he didn’t have the greatest showing during the preseason with the Maple Leafs, Liljegren has been called up on two separate occasions this season already for the big club. That said, he still awaits his NHL regular season debut as he was sent back to the Marlies for the second time this season.

Regardless, the big club is watching and it might not be much longer before both Sandin and Liljegren are making strides in their respective NHL careers.

2019-20 Stats:
Toronto Marlies (AHL) | 31 GP | 4 G | 18 A | 22 PTS | 14 PIM | -1

Scott Recovering From Injury

Let’s call him missing in action. If you don’t know who we’re talking about, it’s Maple Leafs’ goaltending prospect Ian Scott. Scott has yet to play a game for the Marlies this season as he’s been sidelined with hip issues related to impingement.

It was reported in mid-December that Scott would miss upwards of six months following surgery to repair the issue, and that could extend depending on the severity of the issue and the speed in which he recovers.

Related: Maple Leafs Making Room for Pierre Engvall?

Impingement, for those who don’t know, is the lack of connection between the socket in the pelvis and the head of the leg bone. While it has been tied to some career-ending injuries, research has shown that upwards of 90% of NHL players examined during their careers were able to return to the sport following the surgery.

While there are still questions surrounding Scott’s prognosis and what his post-surgery career will look like, it is believed that the goaltender should be ready to go for training camp next season. With all the depth elsewhere on the ice, it’s between the pipes that the Maple Leafs could really use some upgraded depth.

2019-20 Stats:
Toronto Marlies (AHL) | 0 GP | 0-0-0 | 0 GAA | .000 SV% | 0 SO

Check out the THW Prospects Page to see the Next Wave of NHL Stars

Even with the injuries of late, the Maple Leafs have shown a willingness to trust in their young prospects. Some have been given extended time with the big clubs, while others are still looking for their opportunities to play on the Scotiabank Arena ice.

Either way, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any news and notes regarding the team’s prospects as they attempt to make their way onto the NHL roster.