Who is William Lagesson and why is he on the Maple Leafs blueline?

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Jon Steitzer
8 months ago
I think a lot of die hard hockey fans collect a bunch of mid-level players in their heads over the years based on good games or short stretches of brilliance that we have a hard time letting go of and feel that these players can make a significant impact to the team we follow. Living in Edmonton I have a tendency to collect Edmonton Oil Kings and depth Oilers players in my head and constantly push them as fourth line or bottom pairing solutions for the Leafs. Curtis Lazar and Mark Pysyk are definitely a couple of those Oil Kings, and while I feel that Jujhar Khaira is probably the former Oiler I have waited on to become a Leaf more than any other, William Lagesson is one that has certainly been on my radar and was excited to see him brought into the Leafs fold this offseason.
Now that we are a few hours away from William Lagesson making his Maple Leafs debut, I figured it be worth doubling back around to way I am excited about a mid player who didn’t play a single game in the NHL last season.
The story for the appeal of Lagesson begins in the way that is most unappealing to most hockey fans, with a chart.
Lagesson’s last season of NHL hockey saw him play 30 games for the Oilers and 3 more for the Canadiens. He was a solid shot suppressor in a role that wasn’t always limited to third or fourth line depth due to the quality of the Oilers blueline and how depleted it was throughout the 2021-22 season. While Lagesson was for the most part deployed as the 6th defenceman, he did have a number of games where his icetime was north of 15 minutes and this was primarily in 5v5 or even strength situations. While I wouldn’t make the case for Lagesson doing anything more than providing comfortable minutes as the Leafs sixth defenceman for as long as Toronto needs him, he has some promise to be useable in some situations that the Leafs might prefer a defensively minded player to someone like John Klingberg.
Another part of the appeal of Lagesson that will be a bit more engaging for Leafs fans than a RAPM chart is that he likes to hit. Lagesson doesn’t fit the soft Swede narrative, and while I would say that he will play a strong positional game first and foremost, if he has a hit lined up, he will complete it in a memorable way. He might not be Schenn or Lyubushkin tracking players around the ice, looking to line them up, but he is more along the lines of Rasmus Sandin and finish the hit when it is there.
He will also fight for what that’s worth, but when you look at the Leafs blueline it is nice to have someone who will be a bit of a tougher presence.

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Lagesson’s time last season was spent with the Chicago Wolves, the Carolina Hurricanes AHL affiliate at the time. The Canes defence is a tough one to crack so the fact that Lagesson wasn’t in the NHL last season is somewhat driven by the fact that there was a high bar to get there. Having Lagesson brought in by the Canes to add to their depth also points to one of the strongest defensive teams in the league seeing the value in Lagesson. He ended up having a 32 point campaign over 65 games and shows what he could add as tertiary puck mover/offensive option as well for the Leafs during his recall.
The biggest knock on Lagesson is speed and for a blueline that already features TJ Brodie, Mark Giordano, and John Klingberg, having another slower defenceman isn’t ideal and would seemingly put more on Morgan Rielly and Timothy Liljegren from a pressuring the opposition standpoint. Again, if you have Lagesson out against the top competition you’ve already put yourself at a slight disadvantage.
Sheldon Keefe and the Leafs have opted to put Mark Giordano with Timothy Liljegren while Jake McCabe is out. This probably makes sense as the two are familiar with each other and allows the top pairing to function as normal as well. This means that Lagesson will be playing with John Klingberg, who will be leaving the defensive zone heavy lifting to Lagesson. Considering the amount of time Lagesson spent playing with Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie during his last NHL stint, it seems he is comfortable with this type of relationship and he had favourable numbers with both of them in what were unquestionably sheltered situations.
While Lagesson might not be an exciting option, like if the Leafs were recalling a shiny new prospect for us to watch, he does represent someone who looks like he can deliver on what you want in a 7th defenceman.
Data sourced from Evolving Hockey, Natural Stat Trick, and NHL Edge

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