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Top 20 Maple Leafs Prospects: #3 Carl Grundstrom

A long time ago, I made a list. Well, according to the date stamp on the site, it was March of 2016, so I don’t think it was that long ago, but whatever. On that list I identified Carl Grundstrom as the 26th best player in the 2016 NHL entry draft. That’s probably not the best list ever created, and I’m not trying to say I’m smart, I’m just saying I’ve held Grundstrom in some regard for a while, and it’s pleasant to see that he is very close to being an impact NHLer.

The Votes

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Grundstrom has held steady at #3 from last year, after he rose from 14th on the list in 2016. He was extremely close to Rasmus Sandin in the overall score, but received a couple more 3rd overall votes, and benefited from not having some weirdo rank him 6th overall.

We could have had Sandin and Grundstrom tied in our rankings, but what kind of hockey blog is too scared to make a decision on one player being better than another?

Bio

Here’s the deets on Carl. He’s 6’0, 184 lbs despite the fact that he seems play much bigger than that (oh how Babcock will love this kid.) He was taken 57th overall in the 2016 draft, despite smart people believing he could have gone in the first round. People would also say that picking Grundstrom here makes up for taking Korshkov at 31st overall. Grundstrom is from Sweden, the birthplace of every great Leafs prospect, and he’s yet another left shot. He’ll legally be able to drink in the United States in December (that’s my sassy way of saying he’ll turn 21 soon for those wondering about that.)

The Stats

I think he likes to score goals. He’s pretty good at it too. He scored goals pretty consistently last year which is also nice.

2017-18 Recap

Well let’s see, he scored at a .49 goal per game pace in the SHL as a 19/20 year old. He’ then put up 3 points in his first two AHL games, and followed that up with 8 goals, and leading rookies in scoring in the AHL playoffs, picking up a Calder Cup ring in the process. It’s safe to say that 2017-18 was very kind to Grundstrom, despite the knee injury that caused him to miss some games in Sweden this year.

Has He Met Expectations?

  • 2016-17 Most SHL goals by a junior
  • 2016-17 Most SHL points by a junior
  • 2016-17 Champions League champion
  • 2017-18 AHL Calder Cup champion
  • 2017-18 AHL Most Playoff Points by a rookie

WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT FROM THIS KID?

Oh yeah, people want him to round out his defensive zone game so he can get more defensive zone starts, penalty kill, and be a safe bet for regular third line duty.

While that’s a fair thing to want from Grundstrom, and increasing defensive abilities is never a bad thing, I think the Leafs might be ignoring what they have now to get something a little less good somewhere down the line. Grundstrom has shown that he knows how to make things happen in the offensive areas of the ice, and he’s no slouch defensively either. If the young winger log jam didn’t exist, we’d all probably be penciling Carl in next to Kadri in our lineups.

As Seen On TV

 This clip seems to sum up Carl Grundstrom pretty darn well. He’s got the speed to keep up with the play, he’s capable of breaking out of his own zone effectively, and he’s got a quick and accurate release that has been elite at the levels he’s played at, and at the very least NHL ready. The thing that Grundstrom doesn’t do is carry the puck, or pass. He’ll be a finisher when the Leafs have the puck, or he’ll be the guy attacking the puck carrier when they don’t.

Comparables

There really are only two reasonable comparables that can be made for Carl Grundstrom, and those are Darcy Tucker and Wendel Clark. Grundstrom fits the bill as the undersized grinder with the heart of gold, who has the quick release that you want in an agitating top six forward. He’s less punishing than Clark, and I’d probably trust Clark to carry the puck up the ice more, but his Cy Young numbers are Clarkesque. As for comparing him to Tucker, well, he’s probably more talented than Tucker, but he’s less crazy, and crazy can sometimes be better.

At the end of the day, Grundstrom will be fit into a similar role to what Hyman and Brown play on the Leafs currently, I’d argue that he’s better than both of those players already, so it will be interesting to see how quickly he can challenge for a job on the Leafs.

2018-19 Projection

Carl Grundstrom is a player who should get a very long look at Leafs training camp for how he can fit into the Leafs roster. He’s probably got a better chance at a regular job than Josh Leivo, but that sparks the debate about whether or not it’s ideal to start Grundstrom, Kapanen, or Johnsson on the fourth line this year, or whether one of them can benefit from more time in the AHL.

History, especially Babcock’s history dictates that Grundstrom will be getting some time on the Marlies to “learn the North American game” and adjust to smaller rinks, although his 22 game tryout last season should lead us to believe that he’s figured it out nicely, and there might not be a whole lot left for him to learn aside from picking up a few Babcock/Keefe preferred best practices.

If we’re predicting or projecting Grundstrom for the year, I think an AHL All-Star game selection is likely in his cards. I’d also comfortably say that he will get a bit of a look from the Leafs, considering that his waivers exempt status makes it easy for him to come and go as he pleases.

Grundstrom has given us all a lot to be excited about so far, and I’ll give him the kiss of death by saying “I’m very excited about what is still to come.”

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