Death, Taxes, and Pierre Engvall not making our Top 20 list. This was the norm for the previous four years he was eligible for the list, and it always felt justified. Engvall wasn’t making it to the SHL, and his numbers in the Swedish B League barely inspired his ability to cut in the SHL.
Then a funny thing happened. Engvall played a season in the SHL and did well. He came over for a few games with the Marlies and he did even better. Now it’s safe to say we’re probably overcompensating on Engvall, who clocks in at #9 this year.
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Engvall was a late round gamble in 2014, getting drafted in the 7th round, 188th overall. The Leafs decided to swing for the fences on a winger who now stands 6’4, and weighs 194 lbs. The Leafs counted on him being able to use his reach, and it looks like he’s figured that out.
Engvall started his Swedish pro hockey career in the Frölunda system, but ultimately moved over to Mora IK, for what I assume was a better chance at icetime.
At 22 years old, Engvall is about to start his first full season in North America, but given the number of Swedish prospects in the Leafs system, I think the transition should be a smooth one.
In 2016-17, Engvall was a .8 ppg player in the Swedish B League. He transitioned to being a .65 ppg player in the SHL, before having a fun little hot streak in his AHL debut and putting up 8 points in his first 9 games. Including the playoffs and regular season, Engvall was a .55 ppg player in his first 29 games in North America. If he’s able to build on this, it’s very likely we’ve got a future Leaf on our hands, but given his lengthy development curve over the past 4 years, I’m willing to bet he’s exclusively a Marlies regular this season.
Starting the season with a clavicle injury was less than ideal for Engvall, when he was entering a season that would be his first tour of duty of the SHL, and last best chance at making it to North America, but it’s safe to say he made the most of it.
Engvall proved himself to be an all situations player who could be trotted out on the power play, but also one that you can rely on in the final minutes of protecting the lead in a close game. The fact that Engvall was able to be so effective so fast for the Marlies, and inspire confidence that figuring out the smaller ice surface wouldn’t be an issue. His production dropped off in the later rounds of the AHL playoffs, but he also transited to more of shutdown line situation playing with Frederik Gauthier.
Has His Progress Been As Expected?
It’s safe to say it’s been better than expected, and it seemed more than likely we would have completely written off Pierre heading into this season. Getting his shot in the SHL and doing well would have been one thing, and might have sparked some debate about whether or not he deserved a contract, but the AHL tour should have sold everyone on Engvall being worthy of his shot.
As Seen on TV
He’s a big Swede that is about to start playing in a Mike Babcock system, so the Holmstrom and Franzen comparisons are inevitable. Perhaps I’ll go even more favourable, and give Engvall a nice Leaf comparison, and say that he reminds me of Dave Andreychuk. Engvall uses his reach to give him the advantage over his opposition, and he finds open ice extremely well. He’s often in a position to score, and the accuracy of his shot tells me that we won’t entirely have to rely on tip-ins, but there will be tip-ins too. A lot, at least in the AHL. It remains to be seen if Engvall is the AHL Andreychuk, or if he can play his style at the NHL level, but there’s still time on that. For now, I’ll set the bar extremely high instead of being more realistic and saying Alexei Ponikarovsky.
On second thought. He’s exactly Fredrik Modin. I had to think long and hard 🙂 about the last time I made comparisons between a Leafs prospect and Dave Andreychuk, and it was probably Freddy Modin. Like Modin, Engvall has more speed than Andreychuk, although it’s worth noting Jason Allison’s shootout attempt had more speed than Andreychuk, and Modin’s Swedish to boot. It’s perfect comparison. Bring Sundin out of retirement, we’ve finally found a winger for him.
Nylander, Marner, Kapanen, Marleau, Johnsson, Hyman, Brown, Ennis, Leivo, Grundstrom, and Moore. If three or more of these guys are hurt at the same time, we could end up seeing Engvall make his NHL debut in 2018-19. Not impossible, and there’s little doubt in my mind Engvall is seen as more of a fit for the Leafs than even guys like Timashov and Bracco, who will have to be exceptional to earn their shot.
Much more realistically, Engvall is going to take up residence in the middle six of the Marlies roster, likely seeing a ton of special teams time, and proving that physicality is something he won’t shy away from. A good year with the Marlies probably moves Engvall to the front of the line for promotion, which is a nice place to be in when the 2019-20 season starts and Ennis, Leivo, Moore, and Marleau have their futures to be determined.