Pierre Engvall has catapulted himself as an invaluable option in the top-nine
Photo credit:Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
11 months ago
During Sunday night’s game against the Islanders, Alex Kerfoot became the seventh player on the Leafs to hit the 50-point plateau.
As a result, the Leafs are now tied for second in the NHL alongside the Avalanche for teams with players recording reaching the half-century mark for scoring with only the Blues ahead with eight. It shows that not only does Toronto have one of the best offensive teams in the league this season, but it is also a balanced attack across the board. It is evident by the fact that there are 12 Leafs with at least 10 goals or more on the campaign.
For a team that has yet to find a playoff run where both the primary and secondary scoring options have found life at the same time, it’s an encouraging trend to see some balance down the stretch. So it is no surprise to see that beyond Kerfoot, the rest of the pack are fairly close together in terms of point totals.
Leading that group and sitting eighth on the team in scoring is a player who could become an x-factor if the Leafs want any chance at playoff success: @Pierre Engvall.
He has long been a player who got a lot of tough love from Sheldon Keefe since making his way to the NHL in 2019-20. It took him some time to get fully adjusted to the top flight of hockey, but spending the past few seasons honing his craft and shuffling in and out of the bottom six has led him to a breakout campaign this year.
Having already set career bests across the board (14 goals, 17 assists, and 31 points), he is on pace to finish the year with 35 points. Engvall is also one of only four Leafs this season to score multiple tallies shorthanded and is currently tied for third behind only @Mitch Marner and @Ilya Mikheyev. This is impressive since his shooting percentage on the year has gone down when compared to his first two seasons in the league.
The underlying metrics also highlight that not only is he having a strong campaign, but is doing so at an efficient rate. These are some impressive numbers all across the board, especially considering he has spent the majority of the season in the bottom six.
Engvall’s most common linemates have been Mikheyev and @David Kampf, which has proven to be one of the most effective forward lines the Leafs have had all season. Despite playing together for around 180 minutes, MoneyPuck has them ranked third amongst forward lines for xGF%, 58th in GF%, and third in both CF% and FF%. Having similar numbers to the Leafs’ de-facto top line shows that they have found a combination in the middle-six that has worked wonders, even with @Ondrej Kase injured.
He has been able to find success thanks in large part to his continued development in his two-way game, where he has spent a significant amount of ice in all situations (even strength, power play, and shorthanded). Not only is Engvall blessed with height and frame (6’5″ and 214 pounds), but he is also a strong skater and has a quality shot that will make him a threat to flirt with 20 goals a year for the next half-decade.
It’s because of this success that Keefe was able to experiment with tinkering with the lines during a period in which @William Nylander and @John Tavares were stuck in a rut offensively. On Sunday night, Engvall also spent the game on the second line after @Auston Matthews was held out for a minor injury. In both of those instances, he did not skip a beat and continued to showcase his strong play against tougher competition (which included a goal). It is no wonder that Keefe has been quick to give high praise to the 25-year-old forward since Engvall has continued to raise the bar with each passing game.
With his two-year contract at $1.25 million AAV set to expire at season’s end, Engvall is in for a nice payday in the summer regardless of how the playoffs go for the Leafs. He has come into his own in 2021-22 and continues to take his game to greater heights through increased responsibility. Having already set career highs and posted stellar underlying numbers both individually and with his linemates, he has cemented himself as one of the most integral pieces in the Leafs’ forward unit.
Pierre Engvall took some time to get adjusted at the NHL level, but he is in the midst of a breakout campaign to the tune of currently being the next best player beyond Toronto’s seven 50-point scorers. His continued upwards trajectory will allow him a chance to slot alongside Toronto’s star players with only six games remaining in the regular season. Once the playoffs begin, he will play a vital part in the Leafs’ top-nine core that will be difficult for opposing teams to try and contain.
Not bad for a guy taken in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Stats from Hockey-Reference.com and Natural Stat Trick.
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