Toronto Maple Leafs: Marlies Mid-Terms – Pierre Engvall

HERSHEY, PA - MARCH 15: Toronto Marlies left wing Pierre Engvall (47) skates in the slot during the Toronto Marlies vs. the Hershey Bears AHL hockey game March 15, 2019 at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
HERSHEY, PA - MARCH 15: Toronto Marlies left wing Pierre Engvall (47) skates in the slot during the Toronto Marlies vs. the Hershey Bears AHL hockey game March 15, 2019 at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

There are many uncertain aspects of the Toronto Maple Leafs these days, but their prospect pipeline is not one of them.

The Toronto Marlies are currently undefeated throughout the entirety of the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs. Pretty impressive, right? This is a surge that few saw coming prior to the end of the regular season – when a slew of injuries and call ups threatened to deplete an already drained roster.

Yet, here the Marlies stand; the lone remaining team to bear a zero in their loss column.

The primary driving force behind this postseason success has undoubtedly been the team’s stable of talented prospects. These past few weeks have served as a tremendous period of growth for the young Marlies. And with the postseason now reaching its half-way point, there is perhaps no better time than the present to hand these kids their mid-term report cards.

So, that’s exactly what I plan to do. Over the next few days, we’ll be evaluating the postseason performance of each youngster, one by one.

Who has surprised? Who needs improvement? These are all questions you’ll need to read on to find out.

Let’s pick things up with Pierre Engvall.

Pierre Engvall

Postseason Stats: 1 goal, 4 assists; 5 points in 7 games

Grade: B+

In the midst of a hotly contested playoff race, where each game can either extend or extinguish one’s season, it’s easy to lose track of what the overall purpose of the Marlies actually is; development. Winning sure is fun – and the Marlies have seamlessly found a way to blend the two in recent years – but if Toronto’s prospects happen to exit the season in a better position than which they entered, mission accomplished.

Pierre Engvall is perhaps the primary example of this.

The lanky Swede first joined the Marlies on a full-time basis prior to last year’s postseason, arriving as a perimeter-hugging winger whose sharpshooting tendencies saw most of his damage come via the man advantage. That version of Engvall was perfectly fine, if not limited. Maybe Engvall developed those skills to the point where, one day, he would carve out the role of power play specialist on an NHL roster. Or maybe he wouldn’t, opting to retreat back to Europe after a few trying seasons stuck in “quadruple A” purgatory.

Regardless, 2018 Engvall had a ceiling that was otherwise limited. 2019 Engvall does not.

This postseason has functioned as a showcase for the fruits of the developmental journey Engvall has been travelling down for the past 13 months, beginning last April when Sheldon Keefe placed him on the Marlies’ checking line.

Engvall is a centre now. And not just any centre; one who kills penalties – part of PK currently clicking along at 86.4% efficiency – and produces the bulk of his offence at even strength.

It’s not as if Engvall’s success is clouded by the smoke and mirrors of sheltered usage, either. There is no significant caveat to dampen his progress. According to data compiled by The Faceoff Circle, Engvall’s OZS% ranked third out of the Marlies’ four centres throughout their second-round sweep of the Cleveland Monsters, while his 63.6% CF/60 at 5v5 not only topped out as highest of any pivot, but of the entire forward corps, as well.

Within an organization desperately searching for centre prospects, Engvall’s transition into the role gifts the Marlies and, by extension, the Maple Leafs with one who measures in at 6’4, bears a versatile skill set, and now has a track record of adapting to unfamiliar usage on the fly.

If the 2018 postseason was a breeding ground for Engvall’s evolution, what we’re witnessing now is the fruition.

He’s a terrific example of hockey’s new-age player, able to blend both size and speed into a terrifying package. Engvall may be the tallest player on the Marlies’ active playoff roster – stuck in a three-way tie with Egor Korshkov and Colin Greening – but he’s also made a strong case as its fastest, too.

Frankly, what holds Engvall back from breaking into “A” territory is tertiary. He still struggles at times to use his enticing array of tools consistently, and to their fullest extent. This will come with time, of course, just as it does with any prospect. But in the confines of the playoffs, you’d like to see it sooner than later.

Engvall’s shot, which he can snap off in an instant with relatively precise accuracy, is where this applies the most. It’s a weapon he simply does not bring out frequently enough, evidenced by his single postseason goal. And with a sure-to-be barn burner of an Easter Conference Final versus the Charlotte Checkers on the horizon, the Marlies will need to be firing on all cylinders.

The package is there. All Engvall needs to do is put it together.

Next. Young Marlies Mid-Terms: Part One. dark

Thanks for reading!