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Will he or won’t he: Carl Grundström is trying to make the Leafs roster

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It’s that time of year when every team plays the game of “will he or won’t he” with their prospects to get the fans invested. So will he?

Sweden v Russia - Bronze Medal Game - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
He started out the year at the WJC, so what are the chances he finishes it in the NHL?
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Every year it’s the same thing. Some hot young rookie is getting all the buzz, and gets talked up as possibly, maybe, could be, you never know, might be making the team.

It’s not a con. Not really. There are real chances out there in the NHL for unlikely rookies. Training camp surprises have happened before, after all, and some teams have more openings than others. The Maple Leafs have very few openings, but even Vegas is playing the game.

The number of rookies that make an NHL roster out of their first camp and then actually stick beyond the 9 free games you get before you burn a year of your ELC slide is really small. Last year there were 26 players 20 or younger who played 10 or more games in the NHL as first year NHLers. Toronto only had two: Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. All the rest of their rookies were either older, or had played some NHL games the year before.

The Leafs have several potential players for “will he or won’t he” this year, not all total newbies. Kasperi Kapanen, Travis Dermott and some of the free agent signings from the summer will all be trying hard in camp. Another name getting buzz is Carl Grundström. His case is made complicated by confusion around his eligibility to play in the AHL if he doesn’t crack the Leafs lineup.

Is he or isn’t he AHL eligible?

As we discussed before, Justin Bourne said on Twitter that Grundström is not eligible for the AHL. On the weekend, a report at Hockey Sverige gave the following reason for that:

In Carl Grundström’s case, the situation is different because he was drafted in the second round by Toronto in 2016. Thus he has to make the NHL roster in order not to automatically return to Sweden under the current agreement between the NHL and the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation.

I’ve heard that before, that first round picks like Nylander (either variety) or Hampus Lindholm can come over and go straight from their draft or draft plus one years to the AHL. Second rounders have different rules.

And that may be how the transfer agreement reads. I can’t find it to check, but one man argues against that being all there is to it:

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Oliver Kylington went straight from his draft at age 18 and 60th overall in 2015 to the Stockton Heat, and hasn’t ever escaped the AHL since.

So I’m not sure exactly how his situation differs from Grundström’s, but assuming these two reports are correct, Grundström is either on the NHL roster, or he goes back to the SHL. Do not pass Ricoh Coliseum, do not collect $70,000 in AHL salary.

The player says his lines

What does Grundström think about all this? Well, most players are always firmly on the side of belief in themselves and will tell you they will do their best to make the team, and that they think they can. The player himself plays a key role in keeping the “will he or won’t he” going.

A local news site in Sweden caught Grundström as he was leaving on the weekend, and he said this (thanks so much to the reader who pointed this story out to me):

Do you think you'll take a sweater? [make the team, in other words]

"Yes, that's why I'm leaving anyway. Then if it goes all the way or not, we'll see. But I feel I had a good season in Frölunda, and I feel good in both the body and with the game. I feel good, I think.”

And nervous? Forget it.

“Well, I will not be. I see this more like a really fun thing and a challenge,” he says in the middle of packing.

It will be to a hotel first - and if he were to get chosen for NHL play, it will be an apartment as the next step. Andreas Johnsson, who played last season for the Marlies, is also coming to the same training camp.

“I've talked to him a little bit. He played a really good season in the AHL, so he will also be fighting for it ...”

The author of the story, someone who covers Frölunda all the time, gave him a 50% chance of making the NHL, compared to Rangers prospect and Frölunda teammate Lias Andersson, who he gives a 95% chance to.

Just the right kind of vague statements from management are the next most important ingredient in a good game of “will he or won’t he”, and the second someone pins Lou Lamoriello or Mike Babcock down, we’ll get some of those comments about how you need to perform on the ice when it counts, and make them have to take you on the team.

And that’s true. Absolutely.

So, will he or won’t he?

Poll

Will Carl Grundström make the NHL this year?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Yes!
    (189 votes)
  • 51%
    No way!
    (1067 votes)
  • 39%
    If he works hard, goes to the dirty areas, digs in the corners, and gives 110%, he will absolutely be on the team next year.
    (823 votes)
2079 votes total Vote Now