For the third consecutive season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are headed to the playoffs. Their postseason spot was secured thanks to a 2-1 victory Monday night over the New York Islanders. If there was one Maple Leaf skater which the game meant as much to as former Islander John Tavares, it was Calle Rosen.
The Leafs recalled Rosen from the AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies for this first time this season. Rosen made the most of his audition, tallying his first career NHL goal playing just 9:57 on the night. he was rewarded for his strong play the following night with 18 minutes and 23 seconds of ice time against the Carolina Hurricanes. His impact on the Leafs could extend beyond the regular season with defensive depth a concern heading into the playoffs. Similarly, with Jake Gardiner‘s future in Toronto in question, Rosen offers the Leafs an affordable option to bolster their back end moving forward.
Calle Rosen by the Numbers
If Rosen’s lone goal against NYI wasn’t enough to convince fans of his offensive capabilities, his AHL numbers on the season strengthen his case:
#LeafsForever Calle Rosen scores his 1st career goal in his 5th NHL game. He has 46 points in 54 games with the #Marlies this season, tied for 4th-most in the AHL among defencemen. pic.twitter.com/xWvUZaybIA
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 2, 2019
Rosen currently sits tied for fourth in AHL scoring among defensemen despite missing 15 games due to injury. Another attractive asset of his game is his ability to play in all situations. 17 of his 46 points with the Marlies have come on the powerplay. Similarly, Rosen has been a regular on the penalty kill this season, even tallying two assists in his efforts.
The impressive stats in Rosen’s game haven’t been exclusively in the minors. He led all Leafs skaters at 5v5 Corsi at 67.9% in his season debut against the Islanders en route to his first career goal. With concerns over Toronto’s defensive core, Rosen brings stability to the bottom pairing. A knack for finding his name on the stat sheet in a positive fashion gives him something none of Justin Holl, Igor Ozhiganov, or Martin Marincin have been able to duplicate so far this season.
Confidence Is Key
If there’s one element to Calle Rosen’s game worth noting which doesn’t show up on the score sheet, it’s his confidence. Through his skating ability, the young Swede has had increased success offensively this season. His growth as a player has not gone unnoticed by teammates. In a recent interview with The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel, Trevor Moore attributed Rosen’s improvements to increased confidence rather than capability:
“I don’t know if he got better, but he just got more confident.”
It took two years for Calle Rosen.
He’s become extra insurance for the Leafs on Jake Gardiner — now and later. https://t.co/OOjahbwRwJ
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) April 2, 2019
In his first media scrum after being recalled, the confidence of Rosen was once again a talking point. In this case, it was Calle himself who recognized the impact his self-confidence has had on his play:
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 1, 2019
One of the main factors he attributed to his increased comfort was his role on the Marlies 2018 Calder Cup championship team. Playing like a top defenseman in the AHL has allowed him to find his game in North America. As a result, the transition to the NHL is proving a much easier one.
Rosen’s Role on the Leafs Moving Forward
Rosen’s play in his short stint with the Leafs has made Mike Babcock’s lineup decisions for the playoffs more interesting. With Jake Gardiner returning Thursday, Babcock’s top six defensemen should be relatively easy to predict. Perhaps the more interesting discussion is which Leafs defensemen should be their seventh option in the case of injury, suspension, etc. In Tuesday night’s edition of TSN’s The Quiz, all three analysts unanimously chose Calle Rosen as the best choice. Rosen suiting up on the Leafs backend at some point during the playoffs should not come as a shock.
As TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted during the intermission segment, Rosen is projected to start next season in the NHL. This claim seems realistic given his recent contract extension with the Leafs back in December. Rosen’s AAV of $750,000 through the 2020-21 season is an attractive asset with cap restraints likely in Toronto’s future.
With the departure of Gardiner a real possibility, the Leafs will have to try and replace those minutes. Although it might be unfair to call Calle Rosen a natural replacement for Gardiner, alongside teammate Travis Dermott, he should be a viable option for filling the void if and when necessary.