It’s almost time for Toronto Maple Leafs hockey. It’s been a long offseason that as has seen the team retool in an attempt to take the next step in their master plan. In that spirit, the management team went out and recruited some savvy veterans like Patrick Marleau, Dominic Moore and Ron Hainsey.
Those players will bring a set of skills and an element of leadership to the club and should be key pieces to the potential success of the 2017-18 Leafs. While those three are playing with the big club, the Leafs future will also be on the ice in leagues across the world.
The annual rookie tournament will take place September 8th -10th. The top Leafs prospects will all be taking part against teams iced by Montreal and Ottawa. With so much talent on the ice, let’s take a look at three of the Leafs prospects to keep a close eye on.
Travis Dermott, Defenseman
Travis Dermott is a really interesting case. The former Erie Otter was drafted back in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Since then he’s improved in leaps and bounds and is currently considered the most NHL ready defender on the Toronto Marlies.
He put up five goals and 24 points in the regular season and then added another five in 11 playoff contests this past year. It’s widely believed that Dermott will challenge for an NHL roster spot this coming season if not the next.
He’s known as a safe commodity. The former Newmarket Hurricane does all the little things right while also being a fluid skater with some offensive instincts. The NHL today is about speed, skill and good decision making. Dermott has all those qualities in spades and has the potential to step right into the Leafs lineup and thrive.
If Dermott wants to force the hands of the Leafs brass, a great showing at the upcoming rookie tournament is imperative to his chances.
Carl Grundstrom, Forward
The first of two Swedes on the list, Carl Grundstrom is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Drafted back in 2016, the pesky Swede made his North American debut in the 2016-17 AHL playoffs.
He suited up for the Toronto Marlies and was a force on the ice, scoring three goals and four total points in six games played. He was also nasty and agitated the opponent with his grind and tough style of play.
Carl Grundstrom finds Sebastian Stallberg then crashes the net for the eventual GWG in yesterday's Champions League match vs. KAC Klagenfurt pic.twitter.com/GAA5p3Zh8V
— Future Of The Six (@FutureOfTheSix) September 1, 2017
An appropriate comparison would be the Leafs Leo Komarov. Both play a game that involves a lot of hard hits that inevitably get under the skin of their opponents. Grundstrom is considered a bit more of a scoring talent than Komarov is, which is a trait that will serve him well as he tries to make the jump to the next level.
He’s tenacious without the puck and knows how to play defensive hockey should the need arise. Look for the energetic Swede to make his mark in the upcoming tournament.
Timothy Liljegren, Defenseman
The Leafs latest first round draft pick, Timothy Liljegren has been turning heads all summer long. Liljegren had a difficult draft year back in Sweden. He contracted mono, which sidelined the smooth-skating defender for a few months. His overall ranking began to drop which then caused Liljegren to rush back into action before he was fully recovered.
What followed was bouncing from team to team and trying to find a decent amount of chemistry or playing time. It turned out to all be a good thing for the Leafs, as the team selected the defenseman 17th overall.
Liljegren has been impressing many who have watched him on the ice over the summer. He’s a fantastic skater who makes a perfect first pass. He has great offensive instincts and exemplifies what the Leafs have looked for in the last three drafts. Toronto is building a team of players that have speed, skill and on-ice awareness.
Liljegren will either be playing for a team in Sweden or will remain in Toronto to spend a year with the Marlies. The AHL route looks to have the inside track for a couple of reasons. The young defenseman would have the opportunity to learn the North American style of hockey under the tutelage of Sheldon Keefe.
He would also become more familiar with the Leafs system and the brass could keep a close eye on how their top prospect is acclimatizing. Liljregren is going to be a treat to watch at the tournament and it will be fun to see how he interacts with the Leafs other top prospects and players of the future.