Right now, the future of the 2020-2021 AHL and NHL seasons are uncertain. Every team will have to hope prospects and players in their system step up, when in other years teams could have signed players to fill holes and add depth to their organization. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team, given their success, that has already proven they can find useful additions in the minors. They hope to continue that trend.
Earlier this week, when it came to the Maple Leafs prospect pool, our site took a look at lesser-known prospects worth keeping an eye on. The suggestion was that players like Mikhail Abramov, Alexander Barabanov, and Nick Abruzzese were potential prospects who don’t get a lot of the glory but could make an impact at some point down the road. But, when it comes to who inside the Maple Leafs system might get the call sooner than later, there are a few candidates worth taking a closer look at:
Nicholas Robertson, C/LW
5’9″, 161 lbs, 19 years old
Born two months premature, Nicholas “Nick” Robertson has already overcome multiple challenges in his life to get to where he is today. Now he is looking to prove that once he is called up, he deserves to stay in the NHL. He’s the Maple Leafs prospect at forward that most fans are watching closely and believe could be an impact player.
Robertson began his hockey career with the Toronto Red Wings of the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL), before being drafted 17th overall in the 2017 OHL draft by the Peterborough Petes. He spent three seasons with the Petes and during the 2019-2020 season, scored 55 goals along with 31 assists for a total of 86 points.
He joined the Maple Leafs during the return to play and made his NHL debut in the qualifying round against the Blue Jackets where he scored his first NHL goal. He also saw some time on the power play, something rarely done by a rookie.
During his short stint in the NHL, he managed to grab the attention of the coaching staff and fans in Toronto with his shot, skill, work ethic, and relentless determination. He even impressed his teammates as William Nylander said of Robertson during training camp, “He’s flying around, and He’s got a heavy shot.”
He has an ability to play at the highest level, while also proving that he can keep up with the bigger and stronger NHL players. His offensive ability could lead to him becoming the first player to get the call to the big club in 2021.
Timothy Liljegren, D
6’0″, 192 lbs, 21 years old
Timothy Liljegren has already shown his ability to play at the highest level while playing in his native Sweden and now he’s looking to get the call to the NHL.
His steady increase in point production and improved play in general over the past two seasons with the Marlies is positive news for Leafs fans. He’s doubled his points from 15 in 2018-2019 to 30 in 2019-2020 and that may be enough to get him a call this coming season.
Liljegren has been described by Elite Prospects as: “ A skilled offensive defenseman with excellent skating skills.” They also say:
“The way he combines his speed with strong puck handling skills makes him a quite spectacular player to watch. Decision making at times is a bit questionable and there is some room for improvement when it comes to his defensive game, but if he puts everything together, he should become a high-scoring defenseman thanks to his hockey sense, quick release, and strong passing game.”
The Maple Leafs also believe that Liljegren is ready to become an NHL player, so he should be ranked high on their list of potential call-ups. He played 11 games with the Maple Leafs last season, posting one assist.
Calle Rosen, D
6’1″, 186 lbs, 26 years old
An older player at 26, Calle Rosen is looking for any opportunity to prove himself worthy of a roster spot in the NHL.
The path he took to get to where he is today wasn’t easy, as he went undrafted, returned to his native Sweden, and played for his hometown Växjö Lakers until he signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs in May 2017. He played four games for the Leafs during the 2018-19 season, ended up in Colorado and after playing eight games for the Avs in 2019-20, wound up back with the Leafs.
Rosen has had multiple brief call-ups, but during his time with the Marlies, he has proven himself to be a reliable defenseman. By the end of his first season, he had moved up from a third pair role to a steady contributor on the first pairing, and by the playoffs, he was being trusted as the top power play and penalty kill options on the left side of the Marlies defense. He moved full time to the first pairing and playing upwards of 25 minutes per game.
During the 2018-2019 season, Hardev Lad of Milehighhockey said of Rosen: “By far the best defenseman in the AHL by goals, points, and shots while also making the AHL All-Star team.”
He can find his teammates for the perfect pass, he is an excellent skater for a player of his size, and he has a heavy shot along with an excellent shot selection. With his various skill sets and experience playing at the professional level, he can be a helpful addition for the Maple Leafs in the case of an injury, as an extra defenseman for a road trip (whatever that may look like this season), or just to shake things up on the defense if needed.
Notable Maple Leafs Mentions
With other players in Toronto system such as Joey Anderson, Pierre Engvall, and Rasmus Sandin, the Maple Leafs have a well-stocked farm team of players ready to step into roles anytime they are needed.
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