Timothy Liljegren Jersey

Looking at Toronto Maple Leafs Biggest Trade Chips: Timothy Liljegren

Timothy Liljegren Jersey

The Toronto Maple Leafs have many paths to improving their team.

With such a unique roster, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have an abundance of pathways they can follow to upgrade his team, all with their own benefits and downsides.

In the upcoming days, I will be breaking down the Leafs roster into six different trade tiers and Dubas’ best trade options for acquiring the coveted right-shot top 4 defensemen Toronto fans have been clamoring for for years.

This offseason has the potential to be like no other. Let’s see how the Leafs can improve their team.

Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Options

For one, a wealth of teams will be forced to trade out significant parts of their roster just to get under the $81.5 projected cap ceiling for 2020-21.

Next, if a team like Toronto wants to further add to their roster, it is going to take a substantial move to be cap compliant as well as head into the new season with an improved team.

There is a large contingent of the hockey world expecting this to be one of the most unique and chaotic offseasons in recent memory, and I fully support this notion.

As such, Kyle Dubas could possibly join in on the chaos and go straight for a defenseman. One example of a strong right handed blue-liner who would fit into the Leafs style of play, and who seems to be the kind of player they like is Brett Pesce.

However, in any behemoth of a trade for a Brett Pesce-type defensemen, one player will almost have to be guaranteed to be included in the deal – Timothy Liljegren.

Liljegren, a 6”0, 190 lb defensemen from Sweden, was drafted 17th overall in 2017 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Heading into his draft year, Liljegren was oozing with potential. Scouts had him ranked as the top defensemen in his draft class, ahead of players such as Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar, and projected him to be a top five pick until Liljegren was forced to miss the first two months of his draft eligible season due to mononucleosis, causing his draft stock to fall and allow Toronto to pick him at #17.

Drawing comparisons to Erik Karlsson, Liljegren was praised for his modern skating ability, playmaking from the back end, and offensive prowess (source; Sportsnet).

It is safe to say Timothy Liljegren’s 11-game NHL debut in 2019-20 did not go smoothly.

Bouncing around between the AHL, the press box, and the Leafs third defensive pair, Liljegren only registered one assist in his 11 games, mostly playing in a heavily sheltered bottom pairing role.

Liljegren started 54% of his draws in the offensive zone (stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com), while playing majority of his even-strength minutes alongside fellow freshman and Swede, Rasmus Sandin.

Obviously two rookies paired together is not an ideal situation, so judging Liljegren on his play in the NHL so far isn’t really fair.

It is reasonable to assume Liljegren only received NHL minutes due to the significant injuries Toronto sustained on their blueline, and had Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, and Cody Ceci been healthy all year, Liljegren would not have made his debut this season, instead continuing his development in the AHL.

Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs front office are hoping Liljegren is able to reach the lofty comparisons he had established for himself heading into his draft year and become the bonafide #1 right-handed defensemen has was projected to be.

However, with the Toronto Maple Leafs in win-now mode, Liljegren is in an interesting position.

Primarily, the Leafs, unfortunately, are short on time with Auston Matthews’ contract finishing up in four years and do not have the luxury to wait for Liljegren to finally flourish and establish himself as the top 4 right-shot defensemen they desperately need.

Putting up 5 goals and 30 points in 40 games this past season in the AHL (stats courtesy of hockeydb.com), Liljegren may finally be showing his full potential in the minors and could turn into a fantastic trade chip for Dubas.

Because of this, the Leafs GM must tread lightly and be very careful if he were to trade Liljegren as Leafsnation has experienced the heartaches of trading away a player with high potential in a win-now move and watching them flourish on other teams.

Leafs management continuously raves about Liljegren’s improvement and applauds his dedication to perfecting his craft and subsequently, it would be shocking if they did decide to move him.

Though, Kyle Dubas is an intelligent person and realizes he would be doing his team a disservice if a fellow GM called about Liljegren, offering a stud defensemen in exchange and he refused to entertain the idea.

Eemeli Rasanen Jersey

Eemeli Räsänen signs PTO with Marlies

Eemeli Rasanen Jersey

As was rumoured last week, Eemeli Räsänen has official joined the Toronto Marlies on a Professional Try Out contract.

They also officially announced the PTO for Joe Duszak they said was coming when they signed him to an ELC.

Of note: They have not agreed to an ELC with Räsänen. This could mean the Leafs aren’t sure of him, and that’s reasonable, since he’s barely played all year, or it could be that he wants to wait until he has some kind of track record to show for his efforts here.

From the previous article:

Eemeli Rasanen Jersey

The Marlies are currently on the road for a three-in-three starting tonight. They also have a Wednesday game in Bridgeport, and play their next home game on March 23.

As of today, they are fairly comfortably in a playoff position, in third place in their division and five points ahead of fourth-place Belleville and seven points ahead of Utica, who are in fifth place and out of a playoff spot. The Marlies magic number is 20, so they are in a race to the end of the season, just not a desperate one.

It bears remembering that Pierre Engvall and Jesper Lindgren either did not play at all or barely saw action in their first seasons with the Marlies on a PTO. Some players work into the lineup right away like Carl Grundstrom did, and some are there for the practise time only at first.

The Marlies currently have a pretty good defence corps, even with injuries and call-ups thinning the ranks. On the right side, they have:

Joe Duszak
Vincent LoVerde
Steve Oleksy – injured
Timothy Liljegren
Jordan Subban
Frank Corrado – injured
Eemeli Rasanen

On the left, they have:

Rasmus Sandin
Sam Jardine
Kristians Rubins (recent ECHL call-up)
Calle Rosen – injured
Andreas Borgman – injured

Some righties might have to shift over to the left. The Marlies is definitely opposite world to the Leafs right now.

Kris Versteeg Jersey

Kris Versteeg never got the acknowledgment from the Chicago Blackhawks’ fans during the five seasons he was with the team.

In Kris Versteeg‘s career, he’s played for seven different NHL teams. He’s found himself playing in the AHL and overseas too. I don’t just think, I know Versteeg is one of the most underrated players in Blackhawks’ history.

Versteeg was overshadowed by many stars on the team when he was there. It’s hard to be recognized on a team that has Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith in their prime. You can add a few more future Hall of Famers like Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Corey Crawford to that list too.

That doesn’t mean that Versteeg shouldn’t have gotten his credit though.

In 294 games with the Blackhawks, Versteeg scored 68 goals and had 96 assists for 158 points. He’s a point every other game player when he’s wearing Red and Black. In his entire career, he’s played in 643 regular season games scoring 149 goals and having 209 assists for 358 total points.

In the playoffs, Versteeg played in 66 games for the Blackhawks in his five seasons here. He scored 12 goals with 19 assists for a total of 31 total points in the playoffs. Two of those 12 goals were game-winning goals.

Those stats aren’t bad at all. On teams without all of those Hall of Famers, those stats would get him a second-line role. Averaging around 45 points a season with the Blackhawks isn’t bad at all. People somehow missed that.

If you’re still not convinced, make sure to check out the Hawks Rewind on NBC Sports Chicago. Versteeg made a big impact in 2010, having the same success in 2014 and 2015 during those three playoff runs.

Oh, Versteeg also has two Stanley Cups, so I don’t think he’s complaining about his.

Doug Gilmour Jersey

Former NHLer Doug Gilmour will skate alongside fans at this Saturday’s second annual Havelock Festival of Fire and Ice.

The daylong event at the HBMProud-Havelock Community Outdoor Rink on George Street East in Havelock — 40 kilometres east of Peterborough — is a free family event. Festivities get underway at noon, featuring public skating, ice carvings, vendors, marshmallow roasting, a lantern walk, bonfires, chili tasting, an iceblock play area, a screening of the movie Frozen at the Havelock Centre and an outdoor fire performance by Trellis Arts and Entertainment.

Gilmour, the longtime captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, will lace up his skates for a one-on-one game versus Penny Lewis, a Stirling, Ont., fan selected in a draw, beginning at 1 p.m. at the outdoor rink. Gilmour will then hold an autograph-signing session along with a public skate at the arena.

“It should be a lot of fun — great events on and off the ice,” Gilmour posted on Facebook. “I just want to say I am looking forward to it.”

Nicknamed “Killer,” Gilmour played 20 seasons (1983-2003) in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens. He accumulated 1,414 points in 1,474 regular-season games and helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

In recent years, Gilmour, a native of Kingston, was general manager of the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs. However, in November 2019, he stepped down from the role to accept a position with the Leafs as a community representative.

On Tuesday night, organizers took advantage of the colder temperature to flood the outdoor rink and prepare it for the festival. The crews use a handmade ice cleaner and pieces of Zambonis to help flood the ice.

“The kids have been out skating on it like crazy so the ice was in pretty poor shape,” Dave Sharpe told Global News Peterborough at the rink. “So we are just putting it back together. So we scrape it down, give it a nice flood and do it all over again.”

A full schedule of events can be found on the festival’s Facebook page.

Last year, former Leafs captain Wendel Clark was the guest at the inaugural festival.

Zach Hyman Jersey

The Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman is one of the NHL’s most underrated players.

Ever since his rookie year with the Toronto Maple Leafs Hyman has proven he belongs on an NHL team and is a great top 6 player.

Zach Hyman,who is turning 28 years old in June, has only played in three full seasons in the NHL and with this year’s season it makes it his fourth.

When you hear about the Toronto Maple Leafs rookies from the 2016-17 roster you may think Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and hey even Connor Brown, but Zach Hyman was one of the countless rookies on that team that made his full season debut.

From 2016-17 season until now, Hyman has just kept on improving his game and in my eyes has been a very important key piece to Toronto’s success and even might be one of the NHL’s underrated players today.

Hyman’s Career Stats

Like I said Zach Hyman has only played in three full seasons before this current season, making him only playing in just under 300 NHL career games.

In those three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs he has improved his numbers every year.

2016-17 season 82 GP ~ 8G 10A 18PTS

2017-18 season 82 GP ~ 15G 25A 40PTS

2018-19 season 71 GP ~ 21G 20A 41PTS

2019-20 season 39 GP ~ 17G 14A 31 PTS (missed 19 games)

Hyman has played alongside some of the leagues most talented players over his years in the blue and white like Matthews, Marner, and Tavares.

Yes you can say that’s the reason why his numbers are going up each year but I also think that his pure raw talent and his passion to win and play hard is what also helps his game out. (stats from NHL.com)

Hyman’s Type of Game

If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs fan or just know who Hyman is, you know what kind of game he plays. Dump and chase, fight for pucks in corners, stay in front of the net kind of game, and of course that has worked for him, his line mates and obviously his team over the years.

Hyman isn’t known for flashy moves and being a pure goal scorer but he has maybe given himself a name for being a 20 goal scorer now, with 20 goals last year and now 17 goals in 39 games this year.

That puts him on pace for 27 goals by the end of the season which would be yet another career high in goals (27) and ultimately in points (50) passing his career high set last year at 41 PTS.

Former head coach Mike Babcock said Zach Hyman is the best forechecker in the NHL, and in my opinion he’s definitely up there.

He is one of, if not the best in the NHL. His mentality and his eagerness to chase pucks and fight for those 50/50 puck battles makes Zach Hyman who Zach Hyman is… a great hockey player (stats from NHL.com)

Hyman’s Contract

We all know by now that the Toronto Maple Leafs salary cap situation is tight, but the team does have some nice contracts currently on their roster, and Hyman is one of them.

Zach Hyman’s contract – 2.25 M signed through 2020-21

Hyman was given this contract at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, a year after his first full season (was given a two year entry level contract, 15/16 – 16/17)

In 290 career games as a Toronto Maple Leaf he has (67G 79A 146 PTS) 146 points in 290 games for a player making 2.25M is a steal, especially when Hyman continues to improve every year.

What do you think about Zach Hyman? Do you like him as a player? Do you think he is underrated?

Matt Martin Jersey

Andreas Johnsson scowled when a team trainer stopped him taking off his equipment after Friday’s practice to say he was required back on the ice for a few minutes more of 1-on-1 skating drills.

Getting back in shape from a five-week layoff with a broken foot is proving quite arduous for the Swedish right winger. It came on the heels of a busy game on Thursday, where coach Sheldon Keefe moved him up with top guns Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in the hopes of sparking him with a point or goal, as well as getting the club’s leading scorers rolling in a low-scoring affair against Calgary.

“I just didn’t feel like we had much going and for the Matthews line (with Zach Hyman on left wing). It was the one day where much wasn’t happening, so I tried to change the chemistry a bit,” Keefe said.

But you know Matthews and Marner will be cooking soon enough, where Johnsson is a point of concern.

“I did see (jump) at times from him, but it’s very apparent he’s behind in terms of conditioning,” Keefe said of last year’s 20-goal scorer, which netted a new contract.

“His shifts are really short. He gathers his energy, has a burst and then he’s pretty gassed afterwards. I saw him a number of times coming back to the bench tired. He’ll have to work his way through and we’ll help him do that.”

He has no points in the three games back, having been playing with two of the quickest skaters on the team, Alex Kerfoot and Kasperi Kapanen. Johnsson did come close to scoring against the Flames, but November had been a pretty dry month before the injury.

“I don’t know … I felt good yesterday,” said a reserved Johnsson. “It’s more timing and stuff to work on.”

Which will likely keep him close to Toronto during the coming bye week and all-star break.

LONG REHABS AHEAD

If Johnsson is taking awhile to come around after the cast came off his leg, the Leafs could be looking for an even longer adjustment period as Jake Muzzin slowly works back to skating after his foot was also cracked by a shot block. When Toronto resumes playing on Jan. 27 in Nashville, he’ll have been out a month. Muzzin will be doing some rehab work near home during the break. Morgan Rielly (broken foot) and forward Ilya Mikheyev (artery surgery) are a couple of months away from returning.

MAKE IT FAST

Kasperi Kapanen was about 3 1/2 when his father Sami first won the NHL’s fastest skater competition at the NHL all-star game, in 2000 in Toronto and then 2002 in Florida. It’s a subject bound to come up in father-son conversations as the 2020 skills contest happens this Friday in St. Louis.

“I’ve seen it a couple of times on YouTube, it’s a pretty special thing,” Kasperi said. “To be called the fastest skater in the NHL (Sami’s 13.649-second lap of the Air Canada Centre was a touch quicker than Florida), that’s pretty cool.

“He’ll bring it up and try to brag about it, but I’d like to think I could beat him in my time.”

Three-time defending champion Connor McDavid has yet to beat the time of 13.103 by Jonathan Drouin.

SOUP’S ON

Mikheyev is up and around after his delicate surgery and according to a tweet from agent Dan Milstein, filming TV ad material for “an undisclosed major soup company which would also feature his mom, Natalia.”

Milstein promises a formal announcement is coming shortly. Mikheyev’s love of soup and yearning to see more of it served since moving to North America from Russia in the summer led to the ad campaign.

LOOSE LEAFS

Those who did a double take when Matt Martin was announced Thursday as the Alumni player in the nightly Salute To The Troops spot — and noted it was not the belligerent winger who went back to the Islanders — will recall there were two Matt Martins, the first an American defenceman who played in the Pat Burns era … Frederik Andersen and Michael Huthchinson were doing an interesting core drill Friday with goalie coach Steve Briere, holding nothing but a basketball while they raised and dropped their pads into butterfly position to stop shots. Of course they couldn’t resist dribbling the ball on the ice during a break, Hutchinson a cager of note in his Barrie high school district, being more than six feet tall when he was in Grade 9 … Former Leaf Ed Olczyk will be signing copies of his book Beating The Odds in Hockey and in Life at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Eaton Centre’s Indigo store.

Felix Potvin Jersey

Known as The Cat in his playing days, the ex-Leafs goaltending great is behind the bench of the Magog Cantonniers at this week’s TELUS Cup.

Felix Potvin never managed to win a championship during his 13-year NHL career.

He might just make up for it in Thunder Bay.

Although a TELUS Cup championship is a far cry from hoisting the Stanley Cup, it might be just as satisfying for the 47-year-old, who leapt at the opportunity to take over the coaching reins of the Magog Cantonniers, the AAA midget team in the Quebec community, located about 120 kilometres east of Montreal down Highway 10.

Potvin, who led the Toronto Maple Leafs to the conference finals in 1993 and 1994, losing first to Los Angeles and then to Vancouver, said the coaching gig was a perfect fit at this point in his life – a retired goaltender looking for a way to stick around the game he loves.

“When the opportunity came, I started as an assistant coach. I loved doing it and now as a coach it’s a lot of fun. Having these kids, at that age, where it’s an important time in their life, to either keep going in major junior or in university – or even at school, it’s important.”

Potvin, a second-round pick of the Leafs in 1990, spent three years in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with Chicoutimi before jumping to the professional ranks, where he was named the American Hockey League’s top goaltender and best rookie in 1991-92.

The Anjou, Que. native joined the Leafs for good in 1992-93, finishing fourth in the Vezina Trophy and third in the Calder Trophy voting.

Known affectionately as The Cat, Potvin spent seven full seasons with Toronto before being dealt to the New York Islanders after Toronto signed goaltender Curtis Joseph.

He spent a season-and-a-half in Vancouver before winding down his NHL career with stops in Los Angeles and Boston, finishing with a 266-260-85 record.

Potvin says he’s tried to impart the knowledge he gained on his journey to the National Hockey League and back, but only when asked.

“A little bit,” he said on Tuesday, after coaching the Cantonniers to a 3-1 win over Halifax.

“But that’s the main goal. I’ve been through it, so they know they can listen. But we’ve got good kids and the important thing is to show them the right path and then after that the job is done.”

Potvin, whose team took silver at last year’s TELUS Cup, said he tries to take a little from each of his coaches along the way as he transitions behind the bench himself.

It’s a list that includes the likes of Mike Milbury, Andy Murray and, particularly, hall-of-famer Pat Burns.

“Obviously Pat was a part of it,” Potvin said, adding he takes the best of each of his coaches and tries to avoid the worst.

His players seem to have responded, rolling to a 3-0 record after edging Calgary 3-2 on Wednesday afternoon.

“He brings a lot of experience,” said forward Alexandre Doucet, one of the Cantonniers’ top performers at the TELUS Cup.

“He played in the NHL, so it’s very fun for us. And when he talks, we listen to him a lot. He lets us do what we have to do, but defence is important to win games so he wants us to be great on the two sides of the ice.”

Magog takes on Toronto on Thursday afternoon, looking to keep their unbeaten streak alive.

Mitchell Marner Jersey

The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without some of their offensive firepower for a significant amount of time.

The Maple Leafs announced forward Mitch Marner will miss at least four weeks after suffering an ankle injury during Saturday’s shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. He underwent an MRI on Sunday that revealed the extent of the damage, and he will be reassessed in a minimum of four weeks.

This is a disappointing setback considering the 22-year-old is coming off a career season and has been durable throughout his time in the league.

Toronto selected him in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft, and he appeared in 77 games as a rookie in 2016-17 and all 82 games in each of the last two seasons. He finished the 2018-19 campaign with a career-best 94 points on 68 assists and 26 goals.

He also posted a plus-minus of plus-22.

Marner wasted little time making an impact this season with 18 points in the first 18 games. He has been a bright spot for a Maple Leafs team that has been somewhat inconsistent at 9-6-4 this season, and it will be up to marquee playmakers such as Auston Matthews and John Tavares to carry the offense until he is ready to return.

Connor Brown Jersey

Ottawa Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion could barely hide his elation at his Canada Day media availability when discussing the acquisition of forward Connor Brown in a multi-player swap with Maple Leafs.

“Of the four (ex-Maple Leafs) players we talked to today, I can tell you both D.J. (head coach D.J. Smith) and I can say that Connor Brown was probably the most excited to be here,” Dorion said at the time.

While it seems somewhat odd that a player would be excited about leaving a potential Stanley Cup contender for a club that finished 31st overall in league standings last season, Brown felt stifled in his role with the Maple Leafs.

Despite scoring 20 goals in his 2016-17 rookie campaign, the Toronto native saw his ice-time dwindle from 16:12 per game to 15:01 the following season, then to 13:48 in 2018-19. And his goal total dropped as well — Brown scored 14 in his second full year and just eight last season.

Brown told Sporting News that he relishes more playing time with his new team: “I don’t know if it’s a fresh start, so to speak – hopefully an expanded role, get that confidence back offensively.”

With an offensively-laden lineup that included Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and the free-agent addition of John Tavares in July 2018, it was no surprise the 25-year slid down the Maple Leafs’ depth chart. But in doing so, Brown rounded out his game, becoming a reliable bottom-six checking forward and penalty killer.

Currently finding himself on the right wing of the Senators’ top forward unit alongside Brady Tkachuk and center Colin White, the six-foot, 183-pound Brown will certainly get his wish of an expanded role in Ottawa.

In his Sept. 18 preseason debut, Brown led all Senators with a game-high 20:42 of playing time, which included stints on the power play and penalty kill. He also recaptured some of his offense, adding a goal and an assist.

Brown has a fan in his new head coach Smith, who had a first-hand view of his play in Toronto as an assistant with the Maple Leafs.

“He’s the conscience of the line, probably so far. He’s a guy that knows how to play, can track, he works, block shots. He does a bit of everything. I’d like him to get his offensive touch back. He had 20 goals a few years ago. We’d like to see him get back to that,” explained the Senators’ bench boss.

“I think part of it was how deep the (Leafs) team was last year, and how many good players were on that team. To his credit, he fit into the role he was given as a penalty killer and good checker. But on this team, we’re going to need him to provide more offense while continuing to do those other things. And I think that’s a big reason why we got him.”

Tkachuk, Brown’s preseason linemate, echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“I played against him a bunch last year,” Tkachuk said. “He’s a great player. He always works hard to get the puck back. I hope we stay together through the preseason and regular season, too.”

Brown reciprocated his new teammate’s assessment.

“I think we’re feeling each other out. We’ve played together in scrimmage. I think we’re getting better and better. We enjoy playing together, which is a big thing. It’s a good start,” Brown said, adding that Tkachuk and White are “two really good players — highly skilled, competitive.”

One bonus for Brown is that he immediately felt a comfort level in joining his new team, especially after being acquired in the trade with defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. The free agent signings of former Maple Leafs teammates Tyler Ennis and Ron Hainsey added even more familiarity to the group.

“I’m sure it’s a little odd. It’s comforting. You feel more relaxed when there are other guys coming over with you. It can be intimidating coming into a new dressing room, coming to a new team. They help make the transition a little easier,” Brown said.

Brown, who has never missed a game in his three full NHL seasons, isn’t expected to reach the lofty heights of his 128-point 2014 OHL campaign, however another 20-goal year isn’t out of the question.

“At the end of the year, we knew had to do something. We inquired about Connor Brown,” Dorion said. “Our pro scouts felt, after the season he had in his rookie year, and our amateur scouts saw that he led the OHL in scoring, that he still hasn’t reached his offensive upside. He’s a key part in the deal for us.”

Grant Fuhr Jersey

Grant Fuhr says he knows first-hand the thirst his fellow Canadians have for hockey while spending time in the Coachella Valley.

“They still love their hockey,” Fuhr said. “I know people who search for places to watch hockey. And they will go into LA to watch games. So they want their hockey.”

That’s one reason Fuhr is excited by news that an American Hockey League team could be coming to the desert.

The team would be affiliated with the expansion NHL team in Seattle and would play in a new 10,000-seat arena to be built in downtown Palm Springs. Those announcements were made Wednesday as part of a partnership between the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Oak Valley Group, a development and investment group.

The arena and the team should debut in 2021, giving the Coachella Valley its first regularly scheduled professional sports franchise in more than two decades.

“It is awesome,” said Fuhr, the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie who won four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s playing on the same team with legend Wayne Gretzky. “I think what American Hockey has been able to do just putting together a division just in California is great. There are several teams already in California.”

The AHL already has teams in San Jose, Stockton, San Diego and Ontario. The Palm Springs team, affiliated with the expansion Seattle team of the NHL which will also begin play in 2021, hasn’t been awarded yet, but is expected to be made official by this fall.

Fuhr, a long-time desert resident and the director of golf at Desert Dunes Golf Club in Desert Hot Springs, says he’s intrigued by the new AHL team and would even like to be involved with the franchise in some way. A goalie coach in the NHL after his 20-year playing career, Fuhr said hockey fans and even non-fans may be surprised at the caliber of play in the AHL.

“A lot of the boys in the AHL, they are NHL ready,” Fuhr said. “If someone for the Seattle team gets hurt or something like that, the AHL players can step right in.”

Fuhr believes one of the important elements in the success of the Palm Springs team will be not just selling tickets to hockey-mad Canadians but also to those who don’t know much about the sport.

“The key is to get people to come out and see that game live,” Fuhr said. “It doesn’t translate well to television. But if you come out and see the game live, people will enjoy it.”

While the arena is expected to seat 10,000 people, Fuhr knows live musical acts and other entertainment will be needed as well as sports in order for the facility to make a profit.

Grant Fuhr, former ice hockey goaltender in the National Hockey League, at Desert Dunes Golf Club in Desert Hot Springs on Friday, December 21, 2018.

“If they get 4,500, maybe 5,000 people a night (for hockey), I think that would be pretty good,” Fuhr said.

That would put the Palm Springs franchise somewhere in the middle of AHL attendance based on figures for the 2018-19 season.

The area and the training facility that will also be built in Palm Springs can only help junior hockey efforts in the desert,” Fuhr said.

“It might give them a place to play,” Fuhr said. “There are kids in the valley that travel all the way to Riverside to play. Now they will have a place to play here. And they can go to the games and they can stay excited about playing.”