As the Toronto Maple Leafs wait to play their second game against the Edmonton Oilers tonight, the team has made a number of roster changes. How these changes impact what goes on in game action can be befuddling at times, because sometimes roster decisions seem so momentary this season.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Rakell, Campbell, Woll & Vehvilainen
For example, within two days young defenseman Timothy Liljegren was moved up to the Maple Leafs’ roster and then seemingly within hours moved back to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. As well, Alex Galchenyuk was moved to the taxi squad on Sunday. However, unless there’s some big surprise, given Galchenyuk’s success on Saturday night with his second-line partners John Tavares and William Nylander, I can’t see him staying out of the roster.
In this post edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at some of the teams’ roster changes as well as comment about these Maple Leafs’ players as the team heads into the game this evening.
Item One: The Maple Leafs Recall Defenseman Calle Rosen from the Marlies
It seems to me that Calle Rosen his flip-flopping with Timothy Liljegren. As I noted earlier, Liljegren has been moved down to the AHL Marlies while Rosen has moved up from the Marlies to the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad. The 27-year-old Swedish defenseman has proven himself a solid AHL defender, but has only played 20 NHL games in total with the Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche. He’s scored four goals and four assists (for eight points) in 15 games with the Marlies this season.
Item Two: Defensive Prospect Timothy Liljegren Moved Back to AHL’s Marlies
In a corresponding move, the Maple Leafs sent young Swedish prospect defenseman Timothy Liljegren back to the AHL from the team’s taxi squad. I have to believe that Liljegren’s success with the Marlies this season bodes well for his eventually becoming a regular part of the Maple Leafs roster. He was a first-round draft choice (17th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
The word from the organization is that his game is improving this season, both offensively and defensively. He’s scored a goal and six assists (for seven points) in 11 AHL games on the season, but it seems that he won’t see NHL game action this season.
Item Three: Alex Steeves Signs Three-Year, Entry-Level Contract
Alex Steeves, a 21-year-old forward who was 10th in NCAA scoring in 2020-21 and became one of the top NCAA free agents, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs on Sunday. The contract will kick in for the 2021-22 season. It’s potentially a nice signing for the team.
Related: The Worst Free Agent Signings in NHL History
Steeves scored 15 goals and 32 points in 29 games during his final season with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and during his three-year NCAA career at Notre Dame he scored 33 goals and 36 assists (for 69 points) in 104 games. He was also the 2018 winner of the USHL Scholar-Athlete Award and a member of the USHL All-Academic Team.
Like many of Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ other signees, Steeves is an intelligent young player. The projection is that he will be part of next season’s training camp and will suit up with the Marlies for the 2021-22 season.
Item Four: The Maple Leafs’ Place New Goalie Veini Vehvalainen on their Taxi Squad
The Maple Leafs have recalled newcomer Veini Vehvalainen from the AHL and placed him on the team’s taxi squad. Maple Leafs’ fans will remember that Vehvalainen was brought in from the Columbus Blue Jackets two weeks ago with Finnish defenseman Mikko Letonen moving the other way.
Perhaps not much has been made of this trade right now, but given the current uncertainty within the Maple Leafs’ prospect pipeline at the goalie position, my guess is that Vehvilainen immediately becomes a top goalie prospect in the organization. He played really well in Finland. In 33 AHL games last season with the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate the Cleveland Monsters, Vehvilainen had a goals-against-average of 2.76 and a save percentage of .901 for a so-so team.
Item Five: Goalie Ian Scott Moved Back to the AHL
Corresponding to the Vehvilainen call up to the Maple Leafs’ taxi squad, young goalie Ian Scott was returned to the minors. Scott’s a young goalie prospect who’s had a tough time with injuries and hasn’t played in two seasons. But the organization was hopeful that he and Joseph Woll would become the Maple Leafs’ goalies of the future.
Woll’s stock took a bit of a hit last season with the Marlies. In 32 games, he had a goals-against-average of 3.75, a save percentage of .880, and a record of 11-16-3. My guess is that, with Scott’s injury and lack of playing time and Woll’s tough last season, the organization isn’t certain about its goalie depth.
Related: NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs, Canucks, Oilers, Canadiens, Red Wings, Blues, More
Still, Scott – if healed – has shown great potential. During the 2018-19 season, in 49 games in goal for the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, he posted a record of 38-8-2, a goals-against-average of 1.83 and a save percentage of .932.
What’s Next with the Maple Leafs?
Jack Campbell is entering new territory tonight as a starting goalie. His NHL body of work has not really allowed him an opportunity to play several games in a row. By his own assessment, he didn’t play well enough on Saturday night’s game; however, he credited his team with coming through for the victory.
It will be interesting for Maple Leafs’ fans to see how Campbell reacts in his second game in a row against the same tough team. He’s played well against the Oilers before, but can he stand tall one more time? It must be a difficult task for any goalie – and the defense playing in front of him – to face down the twosome of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. There’s good reason why these two stars regularly lead the NHL in points, as they are again this season.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Scott, Andersen, Marleau & Coming Trade?
So far during the 2020-21 season, the Maple Leafs and the Oilers have played at least two really great games against each other – some of the best games I’ve seen all season. Perhaps tonight’s game will be another one after those fun games for fans.