The reigning Calder Cup champions are as soon as once more within the AHL’s Jap Convention remaining, however with a youthful squad and a harder opponent. Coach Sheldon Keefe hasn’t blinked relating to enjoying the youngsters nonetheless and the Marlies are having enjoyable.Rasmus Sandin|Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire by way of Getty ImagesAt any level in Sport Four of the AHL Jap Convention remaining, it regarded just like the Charlotte Checkers would overwhelm the Toronto Marlies. In spite of everything, the Checkers had a extra skilled goaltender in Alex Nedeljkovic, two defensemen who had been with the Carolina Hurricanes throughout their NHL playoff run in Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean and an entire host of heavy forwards who additionally occur to be fairly expert. Oh, and that vaunted Marlies energy play surrendered two shorthanded objectives.
So in fact Toronto ended up profitable in additional time, proper? The Marlies obtained a monster sport from winger Michael Carcone, who netted a hat trick (together with the additional time winner) and an help in a Four-Three win. In a big-picture season sense, nonetheless, it was illuminating to see coach Sheldon Keefe let younger defensemen, notably Rasmus Sandin, play by means of errors.
And don’t get it twisted: the 19-year-old Sandin has been very spectacular throughout Toronto’s playoff run – however he was a little bit too free together with his puck choices in Sport Four, which is uncharacteristic for the child.
And therein lies the problem for Keefe and his teaching workers proper now: The Marlies are two wins away from the Calder Cup remaining, with the prospect to win back-to-back titles after final yr’s triumph. However giving gamers like Sandin, Timothy Liljegren and different kids necessary minutes will profit the father or mother Toronto Maple Leafs as early as subsequent season. So what’s the trail, coach?
“We’re attempting to do the perfect we are able to to win video games at this level,” Keefe mentioned. “We’re one among 4 groups within the American League nonetheless enjoying hockey, so the extra reps for the entire gamers offers them further time to develop. We’re already trying again at a couple of issues we’ll meet with Rasmus about tomorrow that we would like him to do higher. However you get these reps in troublesome situations that lots of gamers and groups aren’t going by means of. We acknowledge there shall be errors and it’s not simply him – we’ve obtained a really younger protection. However we’re enjoying due to these guys like Rasmus and the way they’ve finished by means of the season. We’re going to reside with these errors and there are lots of good issues as properly.”
Certainly, the Marlies blueline is each younger and comically Swedish proper now. Of the six gamers who suited up in Sport Four, solely veteran Vincent LoVerde isn’t from the Scandinavian nation and people different 5 are all, to various levels, choices to combat for a spot on the Leafs’ blueline as quickly as subsequent season. Rosen and Andreas Borgman, probably the most senior of the prospects, have already performed NHL video games, whereas Liljegren and Sandin each have the first-round pedigree and early outcomes to be intriguing.
An extended shot is 22-year-old Jesper Lindgren, who’s simply enjoying his first video games in North America after profitable a Finnish Liiga championship with HPK. Given what number of defensemen the Marlies have at their disposal proper now (Mac Hollowell and Joseph Duszak are two different prospects who’ve seen post-season motion), it’s comprehensible that Lindgren has solely performed two video games to this point, however he has two factors already and his new coach likes what he sees.
“Lindgren hasn’t performed as a lot, however he’s obtained such poise on the market,” Keefe mentioned. “He’s not one to get rattled. The puck involves him, he’s going to make a play and put it within the fingers of the forwards. It’s a pleasant factor to have; he’s not labored up with what’s round him.”
Can the Marlies overcome the Checkers on this collection? It’s going to be their greatest problem to this point. Charlotte was the perfect group within the AHL this season, whereas the Marlies caught a break when the No. 1 seed of their division, Syracuse, was upset within the first spherical by Cleveland.
Toronto misplaced many key drivers from final yr’s title group, with playoff MVP Andreas Johnsson, defensive catalyst Travis Dermott and beginning goalie Garrett Sparks all changing into full-time NHLers. So the 2018-19 Marlies weren’t the identical juggernaut as their forebearers. However that has given the brand new crew some adversity to deal with – and that’s an excellent growth lesson itself.
“Even within the final month of the season, we weren’t sure that we have been going to make the playoffs,” Keefe mentioned. “We have been battling and attempting to solidify ourselves. It’s not unusual floor for us. We hope that may assist us by way of remaining resilient, having enjoyable and having fun with the second: We’ve come as far as a group, so give your self each alternative to get pleasure from it. We’re enjoying hockey on the finish of Might.”
Tags: ahl, prospects, toronto maple leafsConnect: In regards to the AuthorRyan KennedyRyan Kennedy is the affiliate senior author and draft/prospect skilled at The Hockey Information. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all known as his home. He lives in Toronto together with his spouse and children the place he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.