KANATA, Ont. — Out of the farm system and into a lion’s den.
Toronto Maple Leafs defence prospect Calle Rosen is finally set for a long-deserved recall and will join the big club in New York this weekend in advance of Monday’s tilt against the New York Islanders, before what is sure to be an excitable Nassau Coliseum crowd.
“We actually thought he had an opportunity at training camp,” coach Mike Babcock said Saturday, ahead of the Leafs’ game in Ottawa.
“It didn’t go like he wanted, but he went back and had a good year. He would’ve been up a while ago, but he got injured.”
Prior to taking a puck off his foot on Feb. 22, Rosen was enjoying such a productive season on the Marlies’ top pair that he’d earned a two-year contract extension and was firmly in the running for the AHL’s Top Defenceman of the Year Award.
The 25-year-old has contributed an assist in both of his post-injury appearances with the Marlies, bringing his season totals up to seven goals, 39 assists and 46 points.
“I know he’s having a career year, but he was this good last year,” said rookie Leafs defender Justin Holl, who hoisted a Calder Cup with Rosen last spring.
“He’s a great skater, really good with the puck. Really good in transition and closes out fast. Doesn’t give guys much time and uses his skating ability to his advantage.”
With Travis Dermott (shoulder) returning to game action Saturday and an on-the-mend Jake Gardiner (back) now traveling with the team and participating in the optional skate, the oft-criticized Leafs defence is getting healthy.
Barring setbacks, the plan would be to play Rosen in New York Monday and against Carolina Tuesday.
Fingers crossed, Gardiner would be available for Thursday versus Tampa Bay and next Saturday’s regular-season finale in Montreal.
The Leafs are considering dressing seven defenceman if/when Gardiner is cleared for contact.
“Some players can really step up and get going at the next level. Other players it’s harder for,” Babcock said of Rosen.
“We’re hopeful because of his hockey sense, because of his skating, he can be an important player in years to come.”
The Växjö, Sweden native has one assist in four career NHL appearances, all coming early during the 2017-18 season.