The chances that Timothy Liljegren develops into a player as impactful as Erik Karlsson are very, very slim. After all, we are talking about maybe a top-3 defenceman in the history of hockey in Karlsson.
But there’s a reason Liljegren sometimes gets compared to the fellow Swedish blue-liner, and if he can bring some of those similar talked-about tools the two share to the table as he develops into an NHL player, the Leafs will be getting a ton of value out of the 17th overall selection.
Toronto had three consecutive summers of drafting major talent in the top ten, so when they made the playoffs last season, we knew their prospect pool wasn’t going to be remotely close to what it was in recent years past. However, with Liljegren falling to the Leafs due to an abbreviated draft season, they’ve landed another major piece for the cupboard, and with that, Liljegren is our top prospect in the system right now.
The only way Liljegren was going to be pushed for top spot here was if Kapanen was still eligible as a prospect, but since he’s now “graduated” and can’t win the Calder this season, this choice was obviously quite easy for the entire writing staff.
Ten months ago, Liljegren was in the conversation for 1st overall in the 2017 draft alongside Nolan Patrick, but as he was set back by a bout of mono, his stock fell considerably and he was overtaken by players with lower upside on a lot of draft boards. But even with that in mind, you could probably argue he shouldn’t fallen as far as he did – all the way to 17th where Toronto was happy to snag him. The Nation Network had Liljegren ranked 6th overall in their pre-draft ranks.
The tale of the tape on Liljegren is 6’0 and 192 pounds, which seems like a perfectly fine frame for the type mobility he possesses. He’s spent nearly all his time developing within the Rogle BK organization, going all the way back to their U16 team. This past season he spent time with three clubs; Rogle in the top Swedish League, their Junior-20 club, and Timra of Allsvenskan (a step down from SHL). To date he hasn’t played in the main U20 World Junior tournament, and we don’t know if he ever will, considering he could be sticking around Toronto this winter.
Liljegren draws some comparisons to Karlsson due to his skating mechanics – the seemingly effortless quickness and mobility he possesses. It’s the reason scouts like Corey Pronman say of Liljegren “When healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen of the past few draft classes.”
And that’s Liljegren’s thing: Offense first. The key thing I’ve noticed from watching clips this summer is how confident he is moving along the blue-line in the offensive zone, and the way gets shots through to the net using his stick-handling and the way he can delay – both are not easy-to-teach elements.
As mentioned, the Nation Network had Liljegren ranked 6th overall heading into June’s draft, and had this to say about him:
There are those that find Liljegren highly intelligent, while others think otherwise. I believe this controversy contrives from Liljegren’s playstyle. Liljegren is a dynamic offensive talent, who produces creative high-quality plays. This causes many to view him as highly intelligent. However, the right-shot defender also is a risk taker, which can cause some high-profile blunders.
Anyone who’s been watching Liljegren in the rookie tournament is seeing this kind of stuff first hand, but put me in the camp of people who aren’t concerned. There’s a tradeoff with a player of Liljegren’s style, and his overall value will no-doubt be a positive if he develops as he should.
|2015-16||Rögle BK J18||J18 Elit||1||0||0||0|
|Rögle BK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||1||0||0||0|
|Rögle BK J20||SuperElit||29||7||15||22|
|Sweden U17 (all)||International-Jr||7||4||3||7|
|Sweden U18 (all)||International-Jr||12||1||6||7|
|2016-17||Rögle BK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||0||0||0||0|
|Rögle BK J20||SuperElit||12||5||2||7|
|Sweden U18 (all)||International-Jr||17||1||9||10|
And here are Liljegren’s career totals from every level:
As Seen on TV
Next Season & Closing Thoughts
The great thing about Liljegren’s further development is that we’re likely to be able to keep tabs on it quite easily. It appears he won;t be going to back to Sweden for his draft-plus-one season, and instead will suit up for the Marlies. Rogle BK have all but given up hope on him returning to the SHL.
He obviously won’t make the Leafs this season, and doesn’t plan to. Liljegren himself has said he needs this season to bounce back from that abbreviated campaign last year, and after that maybe we can talk about where he might fit with the big club. First on tap is, hopefully, getting a full season of work in with the Marlies, racking up some powerplay minutes, and gaining that confidence with the puck on smaller ice with a greater sense of urgency.
The fun thing about Liljegren is we essentially have no idea what his ceiling is; he’s a true swing for the fences kind of pick who, if everything goes right, will be 1st on the depth chart at right-handed defence – perhaps overall. For now, however, he’ll have to settle for 1st overall in this Leafs’ top prospects group.