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AHL Notebook: Maple Leafs prospects poised for another Calder Cup run

Sandin, Liljegren, Bracco key in attempt at second straight championship

by Patrick Williams / Correspondent

Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs), the defending Calder Cup champion, is set up well for another deep playoff run.

With the first round of the American Hockey League playoffs finished, the field has been sliced to eight teams. Toronto will face Cleveland (Columbus Blue Jackets) in the best-of-7 second round, starting at home Wednesday. Toronto swept Rochester (Buffalo Sabres) in the best-of-5 first round.

Toronto is attempting to become the first team to repeat as Calder Cup champion since Hershey (Washington Capitals) in 2009 and 2010. Here is a look at some of the Maple Leafs prospects that will try to help Toronto repeat.


Rasmus Sandin

He's handled significant responsibilities as a 19-year-old defenseman playing in a league dominated by older players and had four assists in three games against Rochester.

A first-round pick (No. 29) in the 2018 NHL Draft, Sandin had 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 44 regular-season games, and also had four points (two goals, two assists) in five games for Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.


Timothy Liljegren

Liljegren has taken a path similar to Sandin.

The Maple Leafs drafted Liljegren (6-0, 192) in the first round (No. 17) in the 2017 NHL Draft, and the defenseman had four assists in 20 Calder Cup Playoff games last season as a 19-year-old (he turned 20 on Tuesday).

This season, a lower-body injury interrupted his season and limited him to 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 43 games.

Liljegren is a plus-1 with five shots on goal in three games in this season's playoffs.


Jeremy Bracco

Drafted in the second round (No. 61) of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs, Bracco had one goal in four playoff games during Toronto's championship run last season.

This season the 22-year-old forward was second in the AHL with 79 points (22 goals, 57 assists) in 75 games.

He has carried that play into the postseason with four points (two goals, two assists) in three games. That total includes scoring the tying and winning goals in Toronto's 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2 against Rochester.


More help is on the way

Goalie Michael Hutchinson, defenseman Calle Rosen and forward Trevor Moore were assigned to the AHL after the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

Moore and Rosen each played key roles in last season's championship run.

Rosen (6-1, 186) had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 16 playoff games in 2018. The 25-year-old built on that this season, tying for seventh among AHL defensemen with 46 points (seven goals, 39 assists) in 54 games before joining the Maple Leafs in April. 

He was a plus-1 with two shots on goal in one game in the first round against Rochester.

Moore (5-10, 182), was second on Toronto in the playoffs last season with 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 20 games, displaying an energetic, down-low playing style that wore down opponents. This season he had 39 points (23 goals, 16 assists) in 46 AHL games and eight points (two goals, six assists) in 25 games with the Maple Leafs. He also had one goal in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Hutchinson, who was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers on Dec. 29, will provide depth and experience behind Kasimir Kaskisuo. Hutchinson, 29, was 14-5-2 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 23 games with Toronto. He's also been to the Calder Cup Final before, with St. John's (Winnipeg Jets) in 2014.

Kaskisuo, 25, was 3-0 with a 1.32 GAA and .960 save percentage against Rochester in the first round. That followed a regular season that saw him go 12-9-5 with a 3.07 GAA and .896 save percentage in 30 games.

Solid AHL goaltending was something Toronto struggled with early in the season after the organization lost Curtis McElhinney (Carolina Hurricanes) and Calvin Pickard (Philadelphia Flyers) on waivers Oct. 2.


Elsewhere in the AHL

In the Atlantic Division, Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes) will play Hershey. Toronto and Charlotte are the only remaining teams that also reached the second round of the postseason in 2018.

In the Western Conference, Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights) and Iowa (Minnesota Wild) will play after each team survived first-round series that went five games; Chicago eliminated Grand Rapids (Detroit Red Wings), Iowa got past Milwaukee (Nashville Predators). Bakersfield (Edmonton Oilers) and San Diego (Anaheim Ducks) play in the other Western series. Bakersfield beat Colorado (Colorado Avalanche) in four games, and San Diego eliminated San Jose (San Jose Sharks) in four games.

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