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Pierre Engvall’s Making His Mark with the Maple Leafs

Called up as a depth option when other left-wingers were injured, Pierre Engvall has made his presence felt on the Maple Leafs third-line. Will he continue to play well?

It was a good game all around for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. Backup goalie Michael Hutchinson won his third game in a row, tossing a shutout at the New York Islanders for a 3-0 victory. The usual suspects showed up, with Austin Matthews scoring on a beautiful no-look pass from Mitch Marner. Pierre Engvall scored his fifth goal in his last eight games. And the Maple Leafs took a point for the 10th game in succession.

Pierre Engvall?

Pierre Engvall Becoming a Usual Suspect?

Odd to think, but this 6-foot-5, 212-pound Swedish left-winger is becoming just that – a usual scoring suspect on the third line of the Maple Leafs. Lifted to the big club in the middle of November, he’s not only stuck around but he’s played well. Last night he scored the team’s first goal in the 3-0 win.

In this post, I want to outline Envall’s rise to regular shifts on a Maple Leafs team that is red hot and quickly playing itself into a playoff position. The team is 9-0-1 in its last 10 games and has pushed itself into second place in the Atlantic Division. In fact, the team has the same number of wins as the division-leading Boston Bruins (24) but the Bruins lead with points 59 to 53 because they have 11 overtime losses compared to only five for the Maple Leafs. 

Related: Five Takeaways from the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 Win Over the Minnesota Wild

Engvall’s Call Up to the Big Club

The Maple Leafs recalled Engvall from their AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies on November 18. Because a number of their forwards were injured, Engvall was added to the roster to serve as a depth option.

Personally, I wonder if general manager Kyle Dubas didn’t know then that he and Brendan Shanahan were going to dump then head coach Mike Babcock. If they did, it’s probably no coincidence that Engvall’s promotion to the team corresponded to the replacement of former head coach Mike Babcock with Sheldon Keefe, who was Engvall’s coach for several seasons with the Marlies.

Engvall’s Season Before Coming to the Maple Leafs

Engvall, who’s on the final year of his entry-level contract, has tremendous size at 6-foot-5 and is known as a bit of fitness fanatic. He was in the middle of a breakout AHL season before being called up. Last season, he had scored 32 points in 70 AHL games but he started the season with the Marlies on a hot streak and already had totaled 16 points – halfway to last season’s mark – in the 15 games he played before his call up.

The initial plan was that the 23-year-old Engvall would travel with the team for the start of its five-game road trip. His NHL debut happened on November 19 in a 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. That was Babcock’s last game as head coach.

Related: Maple Leafs Likely to Give Young Rookie a Look

On November 21, which was Keefe’s first game as Maple Leafs head coach and Engvall’s second NHL game, he scored his first NHL goal – shorthanded – in a 3-1 victory over the Coyotes in Arizona. The goal was an unassisted game-winner. It was a good start for both Engvall and his former Marlies coach Keefe.

On December 14, Engvall had the first two-point game of his NHL career when he assisted on two goals in a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. At that point of the season, he’d only played 14 games but he’d shown flashes of strong play in those games, scoring five points – the shorthanded goal and four assists.

Today, Engvall has shown more than flashed. He’s impressed most observers as a force on the team’s bottom-six forwards. For the season, which started out with him alternating between the press box and on the ice, he’s averaged just over 11 minutes of ice time per game in 21 games. However, since his two-point night against the Oilers in early December, he’s seldom skated less than 13 minutes per game and regularly has logged over 15 minutes per game.

Engvall’s On a Roll

On January 4, Engvall scored his fifth goal in his last eight games when the Maple Leafs beat the Islanders. It was a nice goal on a great play by Kasperi Kapanen, who broke out with Engvall, pushed the puck between a defender’s legs, and passed it to Engvall in front of the net who backhanded it over the right shoulder of Islanders’ goalie Semyon Varlamov. It was a great goal and it looked like the young Swede has been doing it forever.

Now, skating regular ice time, Engvall has 10 points in his 21 games. His ice time is increasing as is the trust shown in him by his coaches and teammates. Engvall has goals in two straight games, three goals in his past four games, and five goals in his last eight games.

That strong play just suggests the potential Engall might have. Although it’s early in his NHL career, he’s playing well enough that he’s found a solid home on this rising team’s roster.

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