Tale of the Stick Tape
23 years old
Vaxjo Lakers – SHL
41gms 6g 13a 19pts +19
Swedish National team 2016/17 World Championship
Everybody loves a puck mover, even more a Swedish one, and that’s the description here. Really fluid skating ability is the standout quality in Calle Rosen’s game and reports suggest his point totals (33pts in last 93 SHL gms over two seasons) maybe don’t do his skill set justice. NHL caliber players are being found through many different avenues nowadays and draft position isn’t the be all end all it once was. Undrafted himself , Rosen was highly touted as a youth but after falling off the scouting radar his game has grown over the past couple years playing in his hometown of Vaxjo. So much so in fact, Rosen made the Swedish National team who went on to win Gold at the 2017 World Championships where he suited up for 6 games. That blueline was absolutely stacked, so for him to not only make it but dress regularly is an accomplishment in itself. One that didn’t go unnoticed over here any longer as Rosen had multiple suitors for his services, and he chose Toronto. There is the element of unknown at play in our evaluation, still I can’t help shake the feeling Rosen has a future in best hockey league in the world. I mentioned this before but the signing sure brought a smile to Mike Babcock’s face. And he should know a thing or two about Swedish defenseman.
The Maple Leafs have openings on the bottom half of defense which is why we are here talking in the first place. If Rosen wants a spot on the team out of camp he’ll have to come in and earn it. And there’s not many reasons to think he can’t. A bit undersized but thought of as a decent two way defender, strength could be an issue. Continued development is necessary to become the second pairing Dman he tops out as. Will that development be best served to occur with the Toronto Marlies until Rosen can acclimatize to North American hockey, or has he shown brass in his international play he can step in the way Nikita Zaitsev did only to a lesser extent. The tools are seemingly intact but there is a concern of concussion/injury history. I’m not sure the exact details or correlation but in Bob MacKenzie’s report he spoke of inconsistencies in his game, a lot of peaks and valleys. Whether there’s a link is anyone’s guess, much like how his game will translate is anyone’s guess. One thing is for sure is the more competition the better and Rosen will certainly provide it. Proceed with caution but I believe cautious optimism is warranted here and Rosen could very well turn out to be, yes, another free wallet and become the modern type defenseman Toronto is after.
20 years old
Toronto Marlies – AHL
74gms 14g 25a 39pts
Nielsen’s summary has a bit of a personal tone for me. I’ll get it out of the way, I’m rooting for him. Not in this match-up per se, just for his success in general. This is a good young man. From first viewing on and holding firm with that today, I’ve predicted big things for the 65th pick overall in the 2015 draft. After the Maple Leafs and Mark Hunter took somewhat of a flyer on Nielsen he showed the hockey world why, putting up 70pts in 71gms for Lethbridge in his draft year + 1. Beyond the viewings I’ve spoke with Andrew on a couple occasions during rookie camps and got to know his off ice persona through others he’s stayed with while training. In my brief discussions and findings the word which comes to mind is driven. Nielsen has worked hard on his physical frame and incorporating it into his play. As a junior he was criticized at times for not using his size and has made a conscious effort to add an element of nasty to his game. Now the expectations I put on the defenseman and his path of getting there will be determined or made more clear based on this upcoming season and his summer. For Nielsen, though I didn’t get to zero in as much as on his play I would’ve liked to, his first campaign with the Marlies was very much the pattern of a rookie blueliner with offensive upside.
Skating is the area of improvement most associated with Nielsen when discussing him taking the next step. While I do agree this is something that needs work, I chalk it up to processing as much as anything. The pro game happens fast and often times thinking quick is an equal asset to being quick. And more often than not if you are just a little behind the action you can find yourself either chasing the play or forcing actions. If Nielsen can slow it down, let the game come to him, and be assertive in his defensive decision making there’s a huge jump there to be had. Basically, all Nielsen has to do is gain experience, use it, and not be a rookie. Something he had no control over. I think Nielsen is being overlooked a little based on the rounded-ness and readiness of his fellow draft classmate in Travis Dermott. But you can talk about the natural stumbles and learning curve all you want. What’s undeniable is the massive, massive potential for production in Nielsen. His cannon from the point is high to elite level NHL caliber and only going to get harder. The best part about that fact is the complimentary seeing eye wrist shot he carries along with the bomb. He gets shots through and makes very heady passes from the top as well. As good as the Leafs PP was the one thing it lacks is a true point threat. Andrew Nielsen can be that threat. 14 goals as 20 year old defenseman in the AHL is extremely noteworthy, with 25 assists to throw in. Those are the kind of numbers I project for him as a full time member of the Maple Leafs if he finds his way onto the already lethal powerplay. When that day will be I’m not sure. Will he make the jump or is it another year with added responsibility for the Marlies? Whichever it is, at some point in the not so distant future, bank on Nielsen getting a real shot to prove his worth and show off his offensive acumen. With a little more work don’t be surprised if he shows you a new found menacing side as well.
Who is higher on your 2016/17 Toronto Maple Leafs depth chart? Calle Rosen or Andrew Nielsen?
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