Over the past 3 seasons Calle Rosen has been one of the best depth defencemen in the Leafs organization, yet he has only played 12 NHL games for the Leafs. A combination of injuries to Rosen and younger defencemen getting more opportunity has resulted in him being overlooked a lot, but the Swedish LHD still has a lot to offer.
Rosen was originally signed as a European free agent out of the SHL, alongside Andreas Borgman. He initially took a spot on the Leafs roster in 2017-18, but the Leafs preferred Borgman’s physical style and loaned Rosen to the Marlies. In the AHL he showed the skills that made him one of the top defencemen in the SHL. His smooth skating and long stride allows him to transition the puck out of the defensive zone quickly with control, and he was the quarterback for the majority of breakouts while he was on the ice.
Rosen would go on to record 11 points in 16 AHL playoff games, as the Marlies won the Calder Cup in 2018. He played a pivotal role on the 2nd pair, behind Martin Marincin and Justin Holl. The following season Rosen had built himself into one of the top defencemen in the AHL, but was out with a foot injury when the Leafs needed a callup. He was signed to an inexpensive 2 year extension beginning in 2019, but was included in the Nazem Kadri trade before he could make his case in training camp.
Since Rosen was still waiver exempt, Colorado loaned him to their AHL team for all but 8 NHL games. At the trade deadline the Leafs moved Michael Hutchinson to the Avalanche in order to re-acquire Rosen, clearly he is someone the organization trusts.
By the numbers
At the NHL level, there isn’t much to look at for Rosen. He has 20 NHL games under his belt and 5 points to show for it, 1 of them being goals. The last time Rosen was playing under Keefe, the 2018-19 AHL season, he had the 3rd highest p/g of all defencemen, narrowly trailing fellow Euro UDFA Lawrence Pilut. Rosen’s 46 points were 4th on the Marlies, ahead of Adam Brooks and Trevor Moore.
In all his time with the Marlies, Rosen averaged just under 2.5 shots per game. It’s difficult to find possession data on the AHL but we can safely say that he has the ability to drive play with that many shots. He was in the top 30 for shots by a defencemen in each of his first 2 AHL seasons.
In a small sample size at the NHL level, Rosen’s possession metrics match the conclusions I’ve gotten from watching him play. His team generates shots while he is on the ice, but doesn’t do a great job suppressing them.
What we’ve seen so far
Over the past 3 seasons we’ve seen that Rosen can skate extremely well. He doesn’t have a big slap shot or a proficiency for laying the body, he plays a more traditionally Swedish style of puck possession and smooth transition. He is undoubtedly too good for the AHL, but we’ve yet to truly see if he can compete in the NHL.
We have also seen that Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was willing to rely on Rosen in all situations, and trust him in the offensive zone. There was also two other NHL coaches willing to give Rosen a shot, so he has made an impression with his AHL play.
Here is his only NHL goal:
CALLE ROSEN 🚨
His 1st career goal! 1-0 pic.twitter.com/jSZI5PWt4O
— Flintor (@TheFlintor) April 2, 2019
Some of what he can do in transition:
The Marlies are a scary team in transition. On the winning goal today, Calle Rosen makes a great breakout pass to Grundstrom, then jumps up into the rush to create the odd mean rush.
The tic-tac-toe was beautiful, but doesn't happen without making this read. pic.twitter.com/8yw0I08yLe
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) May 20, 2018
And the comic relief he will provide to the team:
— David Nestico (@davidnestico200) October 24, 2018
How will he do against Columbus?
I haven’t been able to find any video of Rosen filling water bottles, so he may need some preparation for his role in the Columbus. Joking aside, Rosen appears to be behind Marincin and Sandin on the defensive depth chart. If he gets into a game there is a good chance the Leafs had some positive COVID tests, which would be bad for many reasons.
In the event that he does get in a game, the hope is that Rosen can create enough chances offensively to negate his defensive shortcomings. One thing that may be underappreciated about him is his skating, in the sense that it could make him much more effective in the Leafs bottom 6 than it would on another team.
If you watch the Leafs play while Morgan Rielly is on the ice he keeps a tight gap with the forwards as they advance up the ice, even after he has made his outlet pass. This forces the opposing team to commit a man to Rielly on the zone entry, and affords the forwards more passing lanes. When the Leafs have a player like Cody Ceci or Martin Marincin trying to advance the puck, they often have to make a long stretch pass to catch speedy bottom 6 wingers like Kasperi Kapanen, Pierre Engvall, and Ilya Mikheyev.
If it came down to it and Rosen found himself in the lineup, he has the ability to move his feet and join those speedy wingers on the attack, overwhelming the opposition with numbers in transition. This can create much higher danger chances for a bottom 6 that isn’t expected to carry much of the offensive load, and Rosen’s net impact could be a positive even if he isn’t a defensive stalwart.
Narrowing the focus to how he would perform specifically against Columbus, he may have some difficulty with their heavy, grinding style. The Blue Jackets have a way of clogging up the neutral zone and preventing clean breakouts, which is what Rosen thrives on. He would have the speed to match any of their forwards, but he may not be able to take the puck from them very easily.
To be blunt, the expectation is that Rosen doesn’t play in the playoffs. He seems to be the 9th defenceman on the depth chart, and 6 of the guys ahead of him are also left handed.
If he does play, he won’t be overwhelmed by the competition level. 20 NHL games isn’t much, but Rosen has been in North America for 3 seasons now, and he played 4 years of pro in Sweden before that. Rosen isn’t a young rookie looking for his chance to break into the league, he’s a 26 year old pro that wants to help his team in any way possible. He has experience on the right side in both Sweden and Toronto, and Keefe knows exactly what he has to offer.
If he doesn’t play, Rosen is a good mentor for Sandin and will be able to help him develop as the playoffs unfold. It is also a good opportunity for Rosen to get up to NHL speed, as he is under contract for another season at $750k. With the Leafs staring down another cap crunch, he may be called on down the road as a cheap depth option.