Timothy Liljegren hasn’t risen up the organizational ranks at quite the same pace as other highly touted Leafs prospects like Rasmus Sandin or Nick Robertson, but his game took a big step forward in his third professional season. After earning praise for improving his defensive game in year 2, his offense blossomed this season and helped earn him a nod for the AHL All-Star Classic.
With the Leafs forced to look to their depth all too often in 2019-2020, Liljegren earned his first cup of coffee in the NHL and suited up for 11 games. Still just 21 years old, the former first round pick is working to establish himself as a core member of the Leafs blue line going forward.
By The Numbers
Liljegren doubled his AHL point total from the previous season in 3 fewer games, racking up 5 goals and 25 assists over 40 contests. He was a consistent power play contributor and registered career highs with 3 goals and 10 assists with the man advantage.
It’s a very small sample size but the numbers don’t paint a flattering picture of how Liljegren handled his first NHL stint. He ranked well below replacement level in just about every advanced metric, and registered just 1 assist in under 10 minutes of action per game. It’s important to note that he wasn’t exactly handed the easiest assignment as he spent most of his shifts playing alongside fellow rookie, Rasmus Sandin, on a depleted defensive unit.
Liljegren also struggled against NHL forecheckers and was on the receiving end of 12.5 hits per 60 minutes played, the 5th most of all NHL defenders to play at least 100 minutes at 5v5.
What We’ve Seen So Far
We saw two different Timothy Liljegren’s this season; the one who became an impact player in the AHL and the one who didn’t look quite ready for the NHL.
Liljegren has always been an excellent passer but this season brought about a new found confidence carrying the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice.
Though he enjoyed a breakout season for the Marlies, he struggled to adjust to the pace of the NHL and was unable to move the puck with the same effectiveness. Too often, he looked unsure of himself with the puck on his stick and it led to frequent defensive zone turnovers.
— Rink Rat Report (@RinkRatReport) March 6, 2020
While his introduction to the NHL wasn’t the smoothest ride at times, Liljegren was still able to display some of the tools that have the Leafs excited about his potential. He has good vision on the back end, and can lead the breakout when he maintains his composure.
Nice play from Liljegren here. pic.twitter.com/JqBCLAkGnC
— Nick DeSouza (@NickDeSouza_) September 19, 2019
Despite his mediocre performance, Liljegren earned some valuable NHL experience this season. Look for him to build off of his strong campaign with the Marlies, and take the lessons he learned playing against NHL competition, as he pushes for a spot in Toronto’s top 6 as early as next season.
How will he do against Columbus?
As of now, Liljegren isn’t on the Leafs phase 3 roster and it remains to be seen if he will be added prior to phase 4. Being forced into duty against Columbus, one of the best forechecking teams in the league, would be a tall order for the young Swede. He had his struggles moving the puck at the NHL level this year and the Blue Jackets take away time and space with the best of them.
Liljegren was on the initial phase 3 roster but was promptly replaced by Mac Hollowell after he was deemed unfit to play. Speculation will abound any time we hear that phrase this summer but it has to be seen as a positive sign that Liljegren is still present at the team’s facilities and working with Leafs staff.
Timothy Liljegren is on the ice this morning at Leafs camp working with a skills coach: pic.twitter.com/bBqeeTyxMM
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) July 17, 2020
If he is cleared medically prior to phase 4, Liljegren remains a safe bet to fill a depth role on the Leafs roster when play resumes.
(Statistics from NaturalStatTrick.com,
Player Value Card from chartinghockey.ca)