Leafs’ Calle Rosen’s dream comes true, but he’s still on a tryout

Mike Babcock explains why it’s important for the Maple Leafs to be excited for their home opener but also why they team needs to stay focused.

TORONTO – Puck drop for Calle Rosen’s National Hockey League debut won’t take place until 1 a.m. in his motherland.

The 23-year-old Swedish defenceman feels certain that his mom, Marie, and his dad, Tomas, a small businessman in Vaxjo, will fire up a pot of coffee and watch their boy face off against the New York Rangers until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

“I think they’ll stay up. It’s a Saturday,” Rosen says. “A lot of family and friends will be watching back home. It’s going to be fun.”

With new friend and countryman Andreas Borgman, who started in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ opening-night 7-2 victory in Winnipeg, Rosen finds himself immersed in a tryout for Connor Carrick’s third-pairing defence partner that could stretch 10 games into the regular season.

“They’re going to give them both a good look,” says Carrick. “They certainly look the part of real NHL players, but the game is very different once it starts. Pre-season is a different animal.”

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Toronto demoted Rosen to the AHL and kept the higher-paid Martin Marincin on the NHL roster for Tuesday’s roster deadline, a strategical cap move that allowed the club to maximize its savings on Joffrey Lupul’s long-term injury relief. Rosen says the Leafs didn’t inform him of the plan.

“It was disappointing. You want to start up,” he says. “But I’m starting up now.”

Marincin was swiftly waived, Rosen returned to the big club, and the Swede was informed Friday after practice he’d be skating in Toronto’s home opener, under the bright lights of 2017-18’s first episode of Hockey Night in Canada. His girlfriend flew across the ocean for the event.

“I don’t really know what to feel,” Rosen says. “It’s a dream come true. It’s going to be awesome to get out there and just enjoy it.”

Adding to the weight of the moment will be the goaltender at the enemy side of the Air Canada Centre rink.

Rosen says he’s practised a couple times with New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist, but the two have never formally met.

“He’s probably one of the biggest stars back home in Sweden,” Rosen says.

One of the biggest hockey stars or stars period?

“Both.”

The smooth-skating Rosen is ready for some power-play minutes if they come his way.

Rosen was partnered with Carrick for a few pre-season games. The rookie says they both communicate well and often on the ice, and share a rather simple game plan.

“We have skilled forwards,” Rosen says. “Just give them the puck.”

Carrick describes the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Rosen as a lengthy defender and smooth skater. The more bruising Borgman looked strong his own debut Wednesday.

So did penalty-killer Eric Fehr, who will be replaced by Dominic Moore Saturday. The fourth-line centre job is also the focus of a two-player tryout, which explains the Leafs’ rare lineup tinkering following a blowout win.

“I don’t want any of them being snubbed and sitting out,” coach Mike Babcock says. “We’ve got to figure that process out over 10 games, and we’ll do that.”

Thursday’s acquisition of Vegas’ Calvin Pickard, a solid NHL backup, has also raised questions about Curtis McElhinney’s leash as the No. 2 goaltender in the city.

“Once [Pickard] cleared waivers, it became a good move for us,” Babcock explains. “We’re in a better situation because of it.”

Pickard was assigned to the AHL Marlies, crowding a crease that already features Garret Sparks and Kasimir Kaskisuo.

“Now with our guys in the minors, we gotta sort that out. We want them all to play in the American Hockey League,” Babcock says.

“Maybe someone’s looking for an American Hockey League goalie, and we’ll get that done as well.”