There likely isn’t a player on the Toronto Maple Leafs who is more excited to see Erik Kallgren get his first NHL start than forward Nick Robertson.
“He’s a great guy and I’m looking forward to see him play,” Robertson said.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will start their fifth different goaltender this season when they host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
Kallgren got the nod after he made his first appearance in relief last week. Robertson and Kallgren were teammates with the Toronto Marlies this season and the forward liked how the Swedish goaltender handled himself in a stressful situation last week in a relief performance.
“He’s very poised,” Robertson said of Kallgren. “I was impressed with the last game when he got put in there and he’s very calm. He had some big saves for us and got the lead back (tied the game), we were pushing to get the win.”
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Kallgren made his NHL debut on Thursday when he came on in relief of Petr Mrazek in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes. Mrazek allowed four goals on 12 shots, while Kallgren was steady in relief, making 10 saves on 11 shots and helped the team dig out of a 4-1 hole in the third period.
One noticeable attribute was how Kallgren mostly kept to himself during TV timeouts, where other Leafs goaltenders would usually head to the bench for a chat.
“He’s a quiet guy, kind of feeling his way out a little bit,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said of Kallgren. “But in saying that, when he gets on the ice, he seems very confident. Very detailed and demeanour in the way he approaches the game in his position. It’s been nice to see him here.”
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Kallgren’s poise also impressed Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. Not just with his steady performance in the net, but with his composure during his post-game comments with the media.
“The piece I might have been most impressed with that day is how he handled you guys after the game,” Keefe said. “For a guy dealing with so much, the excitement of going in there, he showed extreme poise and confidence. It’s a big part of the position, in particular when you are a part of the Leafs and you’re in this city. I was really impressed with that.”
Following the game on Thursday, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe elected to give Mrazek another shot in goal in the Heritage Classic on Sunday. He made 33 saves on 37 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but the game-winning goal poked through Mrazek at a sharp angle, something the veteran goaltender has done a lot lately in his recent struggles.
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“Obviously, it’s a tough goal, the third one, that he wants to have back at a key moment in the game,” Keefe said of Mrazek. “Aside from that, I think he played a good game for us.
“He’s a veteran guy who’s played in the league a long time. He’s just got to be able to regroup and be confident in himself.”
Kallgren has a 15-8-1 record with a .904 save percentage this season with the Toronto Marlies. With Jack Campbell unavailable for at least another week-and-a-half with a rib injury and Mrazek’s recent struggles, a good showing by Kallgren could allow for the rookie to see a bit of run with the big club.
“We’ll just take it one day at a time,” Keefe said.