2023-24 Maple Leafs Predictions: Timothy Liljegren collects 30 points, becomes top-4 defenceman
Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
By Shane Seney16 days ago
Welcome back for another segment of Maple Leafs predictions for this upcoming season. We’ve covered several of these so far this offseason including the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Ilya Samsonov, Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, John Tavares and even the Leafs power-play units.
For today’s piece, let’s turn our attention to Timothy Liljegren. Someone who is a bit of a wildcard on the Leafs blue line and a player who has taken steps in his development over the past couple of seasons.
2023-24 Maple Leafs Prediction: Liljegren records a career-high 30 points and sees himself set in stone on the Leafs’ top-two pairings.
Heading into this season, Liljegren is expected to be battling with John Klingberg and TJ Brodie for minutes on the team’s right side. There’s also Conor Timmins, who could become the seventh defenceman when the Leafs dress 11 forwards. Regardless, after a season where Liljegren ranked seventh among d-men in time-on-ice, thanks to the departed Rasmus Sandin and Justin Holl, ‘Lilly’ is expected to see a big jump in minutes and responsibilities.
Look for the Swedish blueliner to play significant minutes in 2023-24, likely somewhere in the 19-20 minutes range. He’s expected to see minutes on the team’s second power-play unit along with some minutes on the penalty kill as well. Last season he finished with 18 points in 67 games, and his career high in the NHL is from the season before when he posted 23 points in 61 games. More minutes = more production?
Liljegren’s five-on-five minutes will likely go up in 2023-24, from the 15:59 per game he played last season. Of course, it all depends on where coach Sheldon Keefe has him slotted in. If it’s on the team’s third pair with Mark Giordano, then he’ll be grinding for more ice time, but if Keefe decides to put him with Morgan Rielly on the top pair, look out. 30 points may just be a start. 15 of Liljegren’s 18 points last season came at even strength.
World Championships Did Wonders for Confidence
While admittedly it was an up-and-down season for Liljegren last year with the Leafs, it was the work he put in once the offseason began that should help benefit his game.
After Toronto was eliminated by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Liljegren went on to represent Sweden at the World Champions and found his stride. He was a game-changer for the Swedes as he was carrying the play on his stick, he was jumping in the rush on the regular and he was using his body to limit the rush of the opponent. He put on a clinic during those five games, finishing with two goals and two assists.
The hope for him, and Maple Leafs fans alike, is that he can carry this over into training camp and bring that same confidence on a consistent basis. He’s shown some flashes of brilliance since being selected in the first round of the 2017 NHL entry draft but he needs to limit the bone-head plays. There were too many times during the second half of last season where Liljegren would either fumble the puck attempting a pass or he would be too lax with the puck in his own zone. He’s always had a knack for chipping in with some offence regardless of where he’s played, so you can expect the offensive side of his game to continue to grow and for him to take a big step forward in 2023-24.
Liljegren has a golden opportunity in front of him. Toronto’s defence is in a transition phase and there are plenty of questions to be answered throughout the course of this upcoming season. If the Swede becomes a legit top-four option, do the Leafs really want to pay TJ Brodie $5 million to play bottom-pair minutes? Can John Klingberg give the Leafs enough defensively to play second-pair minutes with Jake McCabe?
There are plenty of questions and not many answers yet. The Maple Leafs will need to see how the back end shapes up during training camp and throughout the preseason. While Liljegren is a lock to make the team, where exactly he slots in is the question. Even so, look for him to have a career season and post 30 points and become a top-four d-man for the Leafs. There’s too much talent there for him not to.
Recent articles from Shane Seney