A few years back home in Sweden, a smattering of games with the AHL Toronto Marlies before a full season with them in 2018-19, and finally, this year, a shot in the big leagues.
Twenty-six games into his NHL career, Engvall’s looked like a good fit, posting seven goals and 13 points for the big club in that span. He’s reached a new pinnacle as of late, getting a plum assignment from head coach Sheldon Keefe, skating alongside John Tavares and William Nylander.
But the 23-year-old Engvall isn’t sweating the extra pressure that comes with his new top-six role.
“I mean, I don’t think honestly too much about that,” he said Friday to Sportsnet 590’s Hockey Central crew. “I just try to enjoy it. It’s pretty big for me to just play with them, to learn from them, and try and take after them. So I don’t try to think about that too much.
“I just see it more as an honour and try to do my best every night.”
It’s not the first time Keefe’s helped the Ljungby, Sweden, native along. The Leafs’ bench boss was also at the helm when Engvall first started up with the Marlies. And the winger credits his coach with helping him build confidence in those early days.
“I think Keefe believed in me and let me play in most areas, like five-on-five, power play, penalty kill. He got me out there in every situation,” Engvall said. “I think I built confidence and I took that with me when I came up with the Leafs.”
Even so, there’s been an adjustment period in the big leagues. It’s been noted by former players that the NHL can seem easier than the AHL in certain ways, given the more organized play and elite skill that reigns at the sport’s highest level.
Engvall’s similarly noticed a difference from the occasional chaos of the minors.
“It’s more structured — the guys, they know where to be, they don’t just force the plays,” he told the Hockey Central crew. “They don’t get caught in situations, they don’t dive in. They stay on the right side. And I feel like sometimes in the AHL, the guys take more chances, even when maybe they’re not supposed to at times. So it’s more structured, I would say. And the guys are obviously more skilled.”
The young Leaf has performed well despite the increase in skill level around him, his seven goals sitting level or above more established forwards on the team like Alexander Kerfoot and Andreas Johnsson, despite the latter two suiting up for far more games than him.
He’ll get his next shot on Saturday, when his Leafs take on the Chicago Blackhawks at Scotiabank Arena.
Listen to Engvall’s full interview with Hockey Central via the audio player embedded in this post.