It may be the start of a long weekend, but the content doesn’t stop at The Leafs Nation dot com!
As you’ve more than likely heard by now (hope you enjoyed your vacation or wherever you were if you somehow missed basically the only important thing that’s happened in Leafland since the Zaitsev extension, other than the Marlies getting eliminated,) the Leafs signed a pair of Swedish dudes who can play defence recently in Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman. I apologize for butchering that sentence beforehand, but the meat of the article is below anyway.
Both Borgman and Rosen come to play in North America for their first full seasons here, and the biggest debate right now is where they’ll slot in. Obviously, their two main options are sticking up with the big club, or being sent a few km down the road to kick it with the Marlies.
We usually don’t have half a clue what we’re talking about anyway, so it’s even funnier when you’re asking some writers to speculate on a pair of players we basically have a few quotes and some very basic stat lines about.
That being said, we asked our staff: What do you see out of the two Swedes in their first season in the Leafs organization?
I know virtually nothing about either of these two other than that they’re both left handed Swedish defencemen and that Andreas Borgman would immediately challenge William Nylander for most handsome Leaf if he made the team. Also, between Marincin, Dermott, Valiev, Rosen and Borgman the Leafs have a lot of options for the left side on the bottom pairing next year. I am 100% in on these two, though, mostly based on the fact that they’re not only both Swedish, but they’re both Swedish defencemen. They’re going to be #elite.
I am optimistic that both Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman are or will be good enough to compete in the NHL, at least at the bottom pairing level. However, whether they will make an impact there is another question. There’s a log jam of potential solutions building up there with Valiev, Dermott, and Nielsen. Rosen and Borgman I believe are in that conversation as well. There’s hope that some of this group of entirely left-handed defensemen, especially Valiev and Rosen, can play on the right side. Whether Mike Babcock wants that is another question, but he seems to be okay with putting Rielly there when necessary. All in all, I like both of these acquisitions, and I’m reasonably sure they will or can already compete at the NHL level. I don’t think the answer is acquiring more defensemen, especially not in this age group (I’d like to see the Leafs draft a few 18 year olds on D though). But just one right-handed piece among this group sure would be nice.
I can’t say I’m too familiar with Rosen and Borgman, however I currently have no issues with either of them. The Leafs don’t have the strongest depth on the blueline, so adding more bullets to the chamber is never a bad idea. My only issue with them down the road might be if they don’t pan out, but Babcock thinks they’re good, like a Holzer or Granberg situation, but even then, we got two guys on defense with solid potential for free. Nothing wrong with that.
I actually saw Borgman play earlier this year on some sketchy stream for game 7 of the SHL finals. Unfortunately, I had no idea who any of the players were at the time and didn’t key in on him.
I might be in the minority here, but I honestly feel like one or both are seriously competing for an immediate roster spot with the big club. 21 isn’t that old for a prospect in Borgman, but Rosen’s turning 24 this upcoming year and well, let’s just not say he’s getting any closer to being a teenager anymore. If he’s going to make an impact, his window of opportunity. Every GM and coach tends to let players try to impress in training camp, but I feel like there’s a very good chance that they come into training came as not-quite-underdogs.
James Mirtle accurately identified (in a paywalled piece for The Athletic) that it’s not very common for undrafted Swedish d-men to make the NHL as regulars. Just two: Viktor Svedberg of the Blackhawks, and Christian Folin in the Minnesota Wild organization have done it recently.
I don’t know if it’s collusion or against the rules at all, but you’d have to figure the Leafs might have some kind of idea who Vegas is interested in for the expansion draft. It might be wild speculation, but maybe they have a strong inkling they’ll lose Martin Marincin and are already jumping the gun on grabbing his replacement?
Maybe they don’t love what they have in Travis Dermott (and to a lesser extent, Andrew Nielsen) for next year, or maybe they figure they’ll need a guy ready to get decent NHL minutes in case of an injury.
And in my fourth conspiracy theory in as many paragraphs, maybe they’re trying to cut corners on a cheap blue line to blow big money on the free agent market.
I think there’s more to this set of signings — especially in Rosen’s case — that leads me to believe, even if I have to put on my hot take hat for a second, and be the dissenting opinion that one or both of these two will be a staple of the Leafs’ blue line next season.
I’m going to side with the general flow here and say that I’m optimistic for Rosen & Borgman, but not expecting a ton immediately. Both had impressive seasons in their respective contexts in the SHL, but there’s still a big gap between that league and the NHL to adjust to. Not to mention, they both play in a position of abundance; while the Leafs “need help defensively”, they’re both left-handed defencemen, which is possibly the only position that doesn’t really need much of an upgrade in terms of responsibility.
I’d say that Borgman is all but a sure thing to be on the Marlies next year, and it’s very likely that Rosen will at least start there, if not play out the season too. This does work to Toronto’s AHL advantage in a sense, given that it allows them to get some players with significant pro reps into the lineup without having to worry about them pushing the limits of the league’s dressed veteran rule. Both players are at least a season or two away from reaching 260 pro games played under the league’s rules, so even if they aren’t of much value to the top tier immediately, they’ll be helping out the organization as they develop.