Toronto Maple Leafs: Andrew Nielsen’s time runs out, gets fresh start with Calgary Flames

General view prior to action between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
General view prior to action between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs decided to move Andrew Nielsen in a minor league trade with the Calgary Flames for Morgan Klimchuk.

There was a lot of excitement from Toronto Maple Leafs fans in 2016 when Andrew Nielsen took a big step in his development but the defenceman struggled to deal with the growing expectations.

Drafted in the third round (65th) of the 2015 draft, the Red Deer Alta., native didn’t present much on paper at the time putting up 24 points in 59 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The following season Nielsen scored 70 points in 71 games which caught the attention of many and pushing him higher on the prospect rankings.

Then it was time to see what he could do with the pressure on him as he made the move to professional hockey with the Toronto Marlies scoring 39 points in 74 games. Not a bad season for a rookie AHL defenceman but there were some red flags like the high number of undisciplined penalties he took and breakdowns in the defensive zone.

While it usually takes time for defencemen to hit their stride it was clear that Travis Dermott emerged ahead of Nielsen as the top defensive prospect in the system and earned the first call-up.

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Then the Leafs went heavy on defencemen in the 2016 draft highlighted by first-round pick Timothy Liljegren and another season went by where Nielsen couldn’t get things going. His production dropped to 26 points in 65 games.

The 2018-19 season was seen as a make or break season for Nielsen but with a crowded Marlies defensive depth chart featuring Lilhegren and 2018 first rounder Rasmus Sandin, he just couldn’t get things going leading to his trade to the Calgary Flames.

With the Flames, Nielsen gets a fresh start and possibly a renewed interest in his desire to make the NHL. This was echoed by Brad Treliving when he spoke about the trade.

"“He was really excited. He told me, ‘This is like a dream come true,’ ” said the Flames general manager. “Growing up, he said the Flames were his team and he dreamed of one day playing at the Saddledome.”"

It appears this was a similar situation for Morgan Klimchuk who had a tough time getting ice time with the Stockton Heat. An obvious difference is that Klimchuk got the call to the NHL while Nielsen wasn’t really given much consideration.

Considering the Marlies losing more and more of their depth due to players being called up to the Leafs, they needed to take a surplus and trade for a position of need which was forward depth. He is considered to be more of a two-way player with eight points in 16 games so far and is capable of putting up 40 points in the AHL on a consistent basis.

Looking at Klimchuk’s scouting reports on Dobber Prospects, many see the forward as someone who can kill penalties, is strong on the forecheck and provide offence in the bottom six.

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While it might be seen as an underwhelming deal considering it’s just a simple swap. It was clear both teams wanted to give these players a chance to play more.