Don’t look now, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are the hottest team in the NHL right now and it’s not without adversity. With injuries making an impact, the team’s depth has stepped up and held strong.
Capping off a brilliant play from Kasperi Kapanen, Pierre Engvall calmly and assertively finished a one-handed dangle pass from the Fin to put the Leafs ahead and eventually win it for the Buds against the steady Islanders. The 23-year-old Swedish forward has looked the part after ascending to the Show on November 19th.
He’s played in 21 games this season since his debut, and in that time has quietly put up ten points (six goals, four assists) and is up to a +6 rating on the year. His play has clearly impressed his former AHL coach and current NHL coach, too as his TOI has jumped from an average of 9:40/game in his first five games to 13:40/game in his most recent five games.
Sheldon Keefe uses the third line as a carrot on a stick for his depth players; perform when called up on the bottom unit, and your ice time will increase as you rise through the lineup. We saw it with Conor Brown, Trevor Moore, and now Engvall, with Mason Marchment hopeful to follow suit.
Pierre Engvall makes it 1-0 pic.twitter.com/rbUnwhxGCz
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) January 5, 2020
With Trevor Moore, Ilya Mikheyev, and Andreas Johnsson both injured and out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, both Engvall and Marchment have received the call to fill out the bottom-six. Engvall’s ease into the lineup and chemistry with Kasperi Kapanen (and any Marlies former teammate) has him the likely candidate to remain once Johnsson and Moore do come back.
The question then must be asked, should the Leafs look to improve elsewhere on the team by sacrificing Johnsson or another solidified forward? Engvall has shown the depth can take the step up from the AHL level, along with Dmytro Timashov, Mason Marchment, and Justin Holl.
Ultimately there isn’t any pressure on Dubas to make a move right now, the defense is playing better than ever and the backup goalie just got a shutout for his third consecutive win. Engvall represents the area in which the Leafs can afford to cut ties on high-ish contract players to beef up elsewhere. Nothing seems imminent, but come deadline time don’t be surprised…