Tyson Barrie had been in trade rumors for a long time. They picked up again recently after initial contract extension discussions made it clear that there wasn’t going to be a fit with the Colorado Avalanche. Couple that with the unmatched depth at right-handed defense in the Avalanche pipeline and Barrie was a luxury the Avs couldn’t afford.
So, they traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nazem Kadri. Also in the deal was Alexander Kerfoot — the C/LW that Kadri is meant to be the massive upgrade over — heading to Toronto, and Calle Rosen coming to Colorado. A lot has been said about Barrie, Kadri, and Kerfoot. But who the hell is Calle Rosen?
Well, as the beat reporter for the Toronto Marlies for the past two seasons, I’ve seen Calle Rosen play upwards of 140 games between the AHL and NHL, regular season and playoffs.
Rosen was not on anyone’s radar in his draft year (2012) playing in the Frolunda system in Sweden. As a young defenseman, he didn’t put up big points or do much in international tournaments to catch the eye of scouts in North America. Scouting back then wasn’t nearly as present in Europe as it is now.
Fast forward to his age-21 season now playing for Vaxjo Lakers, Rosen started to show real promise as his lanky 6’1” frame started to fill out. He made the SHL as a full-time regular and put up nine goals and 33 points in 93 games over the next two years. In 2017, he made the IIHF World Championships roster, putting him on the map in North America.
That’s when Lou Lamoriello, Mike Babcock, and Kyle Dubas (then GM of the Marlies), found Rosen and signed him to an ELC after the tournament had ended. Rosen, and his teammate Andreas Borgman, were the first wave of a steady stream of European talent that the Maple Leafs have brought over from Sweden that continues to bring in talent to Toronto to this day.
Borgman and Rosen quickly made the young Maple Leafs out of camp, but it quickly became apparent that Rosen needed to settle his game down from what used to be a very shoot-first-and-from-anywhere mentality. Rosen went to the Marlies and put in the work. The Marlies have a world-class development staff with trainers, doctors, and coaches all in the city year-round. Rosen took advantage of those resources and quickly moved up from the Marlies third pair to a steady contributor in the top-four by the end of his first season.
In that year’s playoffs (that ended up seeing the Marlies hoist the Calder Cup), Rosen had taken another major step forward and was being trusted as the top power play and penalty kill option for the Marlies on the left side. He also moved up to the first pair with Vincent LoVerde and was playing upwards of 25 minutes a game. He scored 11 points in 16 playoff games, including five goals, just to make it official.
This past season with the Marlies, Rosen was stapled to the first pair and showed that the playoffs were not a fluke. Until his broken foot near the end season, Rosen was by far the best defenseman in the AHL by goals, points, shots, and he made the AHL All-Star team too.
The broken foot was a real missed opportunity for Rosen because the same week after it happened, both Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott sustained major injuries that would put them out until the playoffs (Dermott in fact played with a separated shoulder). Everyone, from fans to Mike Babcock, were screaming for Rosen to get better and play. He did get in four games at the end of the season, but he played injured in all of them for a Leafs team that was safely in the playoffs.
So long story short, Rosen is a great success story of development by the Maple Leafs, but we have no idea how he’ll play in the NHL because we haven’t seen him play there fully healthy.
There are three aspects to Rosen’s transition game that stand out to me as vital parts to his game and extremely valuable tools in the NHL: passing, skating, space.
Rosen is a great passer. His stretch passes are aggressive and accurate. He uses his long stick to really whip the puck up the ice for teammates to catch in stride. There were many times watching him on the Marlies when I couldn’t believe that he was able to thread a puck through the neutral zone the way he could. On the pay below, you can see how well Rosen is able to get to the middle of the ice and snap the pass through a pair of bodies and have it hit Trevor Moore’s stick at the right time. The coordination here is something I really enjoy.
Rosen to Moore to Timashov. The Marlies are on the board pic.twitter.com/qPq2tN320A— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) October 13, 2018
Rosen was not afraid to jump up in the rush when the opportunity presented itself. Sometimes when defensemen go in, they’re there because they have to be and are looking for the first opportunity to bail, so they don’t get in trouble for missing an assignment. Not with Rosen. When he gets below the faceoff dots, he knows what he wants to do and has the skills to do it. Just check out how seamless he is on this play, he looks like a winger. Also, the pass is great.
Here's a better view for the 3-on-2. Gorgeous stuff. pic.twitter.com/ajUKTonR6l— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) May 20, 2018
For a player of his size, Rosen is a great skater and could skate the puck up the ice on his own with ease. Whether he can do that in the NHL is another story, but knowing that those skills are there are not a bad thing. I also like his lateral movement a lot, especially walking the blueline to get shots from the middle or create space for his wingers.
Jeremy Bracco unleashes the bears.— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) December 8, 2018
Assist to Calle Rosen pic.twitter.com/tYlelmhCKE
Rosen’s awareness of teammates and opponents is also something I like from him, he’s never been one to get caught flat-footed when tracking back or trying to push the play forward. Finally, from the end boards and out, Rosen was able to drastically improve how he goes up against tough forecheckers. He can make those short, quick passes while fighting off a forward who is sometimes bigger and heavier than himself. Rosen is a thin guy but he’s never had trouble fighting for his space on the ice.
Sandin and Rosen played together between shifts, and this pair can really pass pic.twitter.com/DfYaZcPTak— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) November 24, 2018
Rosen was a very shoot-happy player when he first came to North America. He took good shots, bad shots, every shot. He explained later that he was very nervous coming to training camp for the first time and really wanted to impress. that nervousness is definitely not there anymore when watch Rosen shoot. He has an incredibly heavy slapper that was a major force on the Marlies’ power play. You can see in the video below the amount of power he can generate from his long stick and even when the puck isn’t in the perfect spot, he can adjust and get it off heavily and accurately anyway.
Rosen's heavy point-shot gives the Marlies a 3-2 lead pic.twitter.com/I0hp13dNY9— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) May 27, 2019
Here’s another angle where you can see just how far back Rosen has to move.
Down 2-0 at the start of the first period...fast forward to the final minutes of the second period and the #Marlies are up 3-2. Rosen scored the third goal, thanks to a pass from Bracco and a nice screen from Mueller up front. @TLNdc pic.twitter.com/kZwlULpNom— Jacob Stoller (@JLStoller) May 27, 2019
Rosen’s shot selection has also improved a lot, especially on the power play. This is not an example of that, but it’s a really good snipe and I wanted to get it in here.
I talked about this a little bit earlier, but for a good season and a half, Rosen has played top-pair minutes for the Marlies, plus top power play and penalty kill time where both special teams leaned heavily on their first units because they were either so dominant or the second unit was really poor.
You’ve seen a lot of Rosen on the power play, but here’s one of his better plays on the penalty kill. Again, his skating and awareness really stand out. Bonus points for being out the defender who was six or seven feet ahead of him and making sure to get the puck deep and around the net so the other killers could perform a long change.
Nice PK shift from Rosen here. He anticipates the pass, intercepts it, leads the rush, draws a penalty, then sets up Moore.— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) January 20, 2019
The Marlies didn't score here, but they held onto the puck for well over a minute, and killed off the whole penalty. pic.twitter.com/ZCUkhfxHTh
Now, Rosen definitely won’t see power play time on a team headlined by Samuel Girard and Cale Makar, but his ability to move efficiently the puck around the offensive zone will be a big help to a third pair that should get some nicely sheltered minutes. It might take some time before Jared Bednar trusts Rosen to play on his penalty kill purely because of the lack of experience, but with Ian Cole and Erik Johnson out as long as they are, Rosen should get a really good chance to audition in the first three months.
At even strength, I would be weary to put Rosen in the top-four right away simply because he hasn’t even played on an NHL third pair before, but with the injuries the Avalanche have at the top of their defence corps, it might be a situation where they might just end up throwing him in the deep end of the pool with a player like Makar and watch how things go.
So that’s Calle Rosen. If you have any questions about him more specifically, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll be around the answer them!