Pierre doesn’t seem so lucky this season, as he finds himself in the unfortunate situation of being waivers exempt. While he’s shown himself capable of being amongst those competing for Leafs depth roles this season, the fact that he can be sent down to the Marlies or taxi squad with ease may keep him off the roster, at least full time.
For that reason, Pierre Engvall’s number is 15. For the number of games remaining in his waivers exempt status.
So, it seems unfair to put Engvall a notch down in the pecking order strictly because of his situation, and in fact, there is a case for the Leafs needing to play Engvall for at least 18 games this season, and that reason is the expansion draft. The Leafs could come up short on players under contract who are eligible to be selected by Seattle, and Engvall is one the players who could most easily hit that mark, especially if those games are prorated based on the shortened season. Though enough about that, let’s talk about if Engvall merits being used by the Leafs from day one.
It didn’t feel like it, but Engvall found his way into 48 games for the Leafs last season. A testament to both his development, and to the horrific run of injuries on the Leafs last year. Engvall was strong out the gate in his earlier games, and by January he was up to 14 minutes a night with the Leafs and put up 6 points (3 goals) in 10 games. On the way down from that, in his final 19 games, Engvall managed just one point and averaged 11:37 minutes a night. Much of Engvall’s success aligns with the success of the Leafs, so his decline when the roster was particularly strained speaks to a player struggling with being asked to do more than he was capable of.
Another bizarre fact about Engvall is that he didn’t score a single point in his 14 games against divisional opponents, and all of his success came from outside his division. Potentially that’s a case for playing him more against the Western opponents of the Canadian division instead of Montreal or Ottawa, although he only scored against two Canadian teams, 1 goal against Winnipeg, and an impressive four points in 2 games against Edmonton.
Now, looking overall, and acknowledging that Engvall spent a fair amount of time out of his element, Pierre’s underlying numbers look pretty decent. He had a 52.08 Corsi For%, and a 50.79% Expected Goals For%. While some of this came in sheltered play, Engvall often found himself utilized in top nine situations as injuries demanded it, and he still averaged out to a solid year.
By Leafs standards, his 51.73 CA/60 and 2.14 xGA/60 were pretty low, and if they are weighted by non sheltered play, there is a case that can be made for his continued usage as a defensively minded fourth liner, and if the Leafs weren’t so deep on the wing he’d probably warrant consideration as a full time player. At center the best argument for Engvall as the fourth line center might come down to Toronto seeing Kerfoot as a winger, moving Thornton up, and Engvall outplaying Travis Boyd in camp. Essentially he’ll need a lot of stars to align.
Instead the reality is that the Leafs will take full advantage of Engvall’s waiver exempt status. That’s not to say that he won’t find himself staying with the Leafs. He’ll potentially get placed in holes in the lineup when they come up, and just that by paperwork he’ll be on the taxi squad. Engvall is a decent player, and expect we’ll see plenty of him this year. Just probably not on opening night.