Carl Grundstrom won’t know until training camp with the Maple Leafs in September whether the experience gained in the American Hockey League playoffs will help serve as a springboard to earning a job in the NHL.
Grundstrom isn’t the lone Toronto Marlie in that situation.
They’re not going to say it out loud, but more than a few Marlies are hoping that Game 7 of the Calder Cup final against the Texas Stars on Thursday at the Ricoh Coliseum will be their last in the minors.
While defenceman Travis Dermott and forward Andreas Johnsson shouldn’t have a problem sticking with the Leafs next fall, based on the overall steady performances of both with the Leafs this past season, Grundstrom and others, including forwards Miro Aaltonen and Pierre Engvall, won’t have the same kind of assurances when camp begins.
“A lot,” Grundstrom said on Wednesday when asked what he has learned this season. “Better player all over the ice. I hope so, but it’s not up to me to say (whether he should be with the Leafs next year). I think I had a pretty good season.”
The six-foot, 194-pound Grundstrom, built like a small tank, joined the Marlies late in the regular season after scoring 17 goals (with seven assists) in 35 games for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. A second-round pick by the Leafs in 2016, Grundstrom is tied for fourth in Marlies playoff scoring with 12 points in 19 games.
Aaltonen, for several months, has been pegged by many to be a Leaf next season, though that’s not written in stone. Engvall, like Grundstrom, has been solid as a late-season addition.
“He has been able to be that guy who is positionally sound and he has been able to play against the other teams’ best players most nights because of how he maintains possession of the puck and makes it hard for them to get it back,” Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said of Engvall.
“Like I have said with a lot of our young players, the longer we have played, it helps all those guys that much more to gain that experience that you know that they need and that they are getting it now versus October and November.”
Forwards Trevor Moore and Mason Marchment also have put themselves on the Leafs’ radar.
On the blue line, defencemen Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen will attempt to demonstrate to head coach Mike Babcock that they deserve to be full-time Leafs.
Then there’s Martin Marincin, who has regained the confidence he lost at the NHL level.
“He is a really good calming influence, good personality, everybody on the team likes him, and he just goes about his business every day,” Keefe said. “Very reliable player for us.”
And goaltender Garret Sparks has made the argument he is ready for a serious crack at an NHL job, whether it’s with the Leafs or somewhere else. At the least, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will have a strong trade chip in Sparks, if that’s the option Dubas chooses.
IN FAVOUR OF EXECUTION
Keefe had no complaint with his players’ effort in Game 6 on Tuesday, when the Marlies lost 5-2 despite outshooting Texas 45-24.
But in order to help ensure that the Marlies win Game 7 and, in turn, their first Calder Cup, there must be a marked change in the offensive zone.
“We need to execute,” Keefe said. “There were times around the net (in Game 6) where there are plays to be made, there are pucks laying around.
“It’s right there. When you have your chances, you have to make good on them. Despite the fact we had a lot of pucks in the offensive zone, and we had a lot of possession time, I don’t think we executed at a high level. I thought we were a little off in that regard. When we’re on, we make plays and we score goals, like we saw in Game 5 (when Toronto won 6-2).
“We just have to get our guys to relax a little bit and make those plays in tight spaces.”
Marlies forward Colin Greening on the idea that there might be disadvantages to being on home ice in Game 7: “I don’t really see any disadvantages. I don’t even want to think that way.” … If the Marlies wind up on the wrong end on Thursday night, they will lament the missed opportunities on the power play. Toronto was 15-for-64 with a man advantage in the playoffs before the final, and is 1-for-16 in six games versus Texas … The game will mark the 11th time in AHL history the Calder Cup final has required seven games to be decided, and first since 2003 when Houston won on the road in Hamilton. Of the previous 10 Game 7s in Cup history, the home team won seven times.
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies