Bob McKenzie joined TSN Overdrive to discuss the Leafs’ additions of Swedish defencemen Andreas Borgman and Calle Rosen on Tuesday.
McKenzie on the scouting reports for Rosen and Borgman:
I’ve never seen either one of them play live — I don’t get to see much Swedish league hockey — but I did talk to a number of people who have scouting reports on both of these guys.
Rosen is 23 years old and the book on him is that he’s a very powerful player. He’s a real good skater, he’s got a bomb for a shot, and a good one-timer. With all the physical tools — strong, explosive skating defenceman — the flip side of that — and again, he’s 23 years old — is there is a high degree of inconsistency to his game. He doesn’t always make the right reads. The Swedish scouts that I’ve talked to said that, along the way, he’s had some issues with concussions in the Swedish league.
I think the underlying point here — and it’s probably the same for Borgman, too, who is two years younger — is that he has a chance to be National Hockey League ready and to compete for a spot on the team. Now, everybody is going to want to know if he is a top-four guy or a top-six guy, or if he’s for sure an NHLer, or if he’s going to spend some time in the minors. They always like to say, “water finds its own level.” These two guys will find their own level fairly quickly.
The important thing for Leafs fans is to know that the club is out there trying to sign these young guys to bring them in and give them an opportunity. There is ample opportunity there if they are ready to step up and do it. You would assume that the 23-year-old is maybe a little bit more ready than the 21-year-old.
[Borgman] has pretty good credentials this year. He was the rookie of the year in the Swedish league. The book I got on him from talking to some other NHL teams who were interested in him is that the agent was maybe selling him as a guy who is going to be a top-four guy or is ready to be a top-four guy in the National Hockey League. Some of the other teams thought that he was maybe more of a third-pairing guy.
In any case, they’re 21 and 23-year-old defencemen that have been playing against men in the Swedish league. I would have to think that there is a decent chance that one or both of them could start the season with the Leafs, but that is what training camp is for. If they need time in the minors, they need time in the minors. If they don’t we’ll find out pretty quick where they slot and where they fit in.
Lou Lamoriello, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Babcock are ensuring that they’ve got more options on the blue line. Travis Dermott, who has been playing with the Marlies, is another guy ready to compete for a spot. It starts to improve the depth and maybe guys like Marchenko and Marincin are pushed further down the depth chart or right out of the picture, depending on how camp goes.
McKenzie on the Leafs’ ability to “sell their program” to free agents:
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. While I don’t watch a lot of games in Sweden, I’m guessing that these kids in Sweden watch some NHL games. They obviously saw what the Toronto Maple Leafs did this season. They probably know who Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and William Nylander are. Of course, they know who Nylander is as Swedish kids. They know the Leaf roster is stacked with good young players. They know that they gave the Washington Capitals a hell of a fight in the first round. They know that they made the playoffs ahead of schedule this season. They know all of that.
If you’re a young player and you’re coming to the National Hockey League and leaving Sweden, you want to go to a place where there is going to be other young players and you’ve got a chance to grow with something that has a chance to be really good. The Leafs fit that bill. Each time you add a guy, whether it’s Auston Matthews or Marner this year or Nylander, it’s just that much more enticing for other good young players to want to come.
Now, there will come a point — and noticeably, these are defencemen — where some young Swedish forward that is looking to come to the NHL might look at the Maple Leafs and say, “I’m not going there; they’ve got way too many young guys that are going to take ice time from me,” or, “There is not an available spot there for me.” They’re not stupid, either. They’re going to look at the Leafs defence and see that the top three spots are claimed and everything beneath that is wide open.
Uffe Bodin on Borgman:
Borgman is a solid and pretty physical two-way defenseman who had a major breakthrough this season after shifting from Hockeyallsvenskan to the SHL. He was rookie of the year and won the championship with HV71. Also played a lot with the national team.