Around this time last year, I’d watch Timothy Liljegren’s highlight reel at least once a week. His ability to bolt the puck up the ice was flat out awe-inspiring, and I thought he would challenge Nolan Patrick to become the first pick in this year’s draft. He led Sweden in scoring at the U-17 tournament, posted 6 points in 7 games at the U-18 tournament, and outscored Elias Pettersson (the Canucks first round pick at 5th overall) in the SuperElit League.
Fast forward a year, and Liljegren was somehow available at #17. Mark Hunter and the Toronto Maple Leafs made no mistake. I profiled seven different first round targets for the Leafs ahead of the draft, but did not bother to write up Liljegren because of his talent level. He ranked 7th on my draft rankings ten days earlier, and remained firmly in my top ten heading into yesterday.
Liljegren had no business being on the board at #17. He was diagnosed with mono at the start of the season, and got off to a bit of a slow start as a result. He also posted only 2 points in 7 games in this year’s U-18 tournament, but he generated an absurd number of shots on goal, and already proved himself against older competition a year earlier.
A Brief Scouting Report On Timothy Liljegren
Liljegren is a 6’0 right-shooting defenceman who can absolutely fly. If you lined up all 31 of yesterday’s first round picks for a race, Liljegren would win it all, or at least make the podium. He constantly rushes the puck into the offensive zone thanks to his lateral quickness, and he is one of the best puck carriers in this draft class.
Liljegren is an incredibly fun player to watch, as he is comfortable stick-handling his way in and out of traffic, and he offers a big time wrist shot from the backend. He can make an opposing defender look foolish by faking a shot and then dancing around them, and he projects to be a great powerplay quarterback as a result.
This is a high-risk player, and you will have to live with plenty of bad turnovers at the start of his career. Defenceman such as Jake Gardiner and PK Subban have taken a lot of heat over their careers for their high-risk style of play, and Liljegren could certainly become a controversial player in the early going. He will need to get stronger and improve in his own zone, but his skill set will allow him to generate plenty of clean zone entries and spend less time in his own zone.
He is not your prototypical shutdown defenceman, and he may require sheltered minutes against weaker competition as he develops. However, it is never a bad idea to gamble on size and skill, and Liljegren’s upside makes him an absolute steal at #17.
TOR picks Liljegren. When healthy, he's one of the most dynamic defensemen in yrs. However, he needs to make smarter decisions/improve def.— (((Corey Pronman))) (@coreypronman) June 24, 2017
A Glimpse of Liljegren In Action:
Fake Slap Shot To Open Up Shooting Lane + Wrist Shot Goal:
Elusiveness + Wrist Shot Goal:
End To End Rush + Goal vs. Russia:
Threading The Needle For A Breakout Pass:
Powerplay Quarterback Assist:
Rush Against Canada:
Rush Against USA:
Walking The Line + Opening Up A Shooting Lane:
Breakout Pass Through The Middle of All Five Opposing Defenders:
Walking the Blue line:
Carries Puck In Offensive Zone For ELEVEN Seconds & Draws Penalty:
Elusiveness + Wrist Shot His The Post:
The Big Picture:
Liljegren does not come without flaws, as his offensive game is ahead of his defensive game at this point, and he is coming off a bit of a down season. Patience will be required here, and it is tough to tell how much defensive responsibility he will be able to handle in the future.
Still, adding an elite skater and puck carrier is quite the addition at #17. He can close his gaps in a hurry, and he is borderline unstoppable at times while rushing the puck up the ice. His upside made him worthy of a top ten pick, and he just so happens to fill an organizational need as a right-shooting defenceman.
For the fourth straight year, the Leafs took the most skilled player available at the time of their selection. Liljegren may not be as safe of a bet as Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, or William Nylander, but he can flat-out dominate games at time with his speed and elusiveness.
All in all, this was a terrific selection for the Leafs at #17. Let’s hope that the Leafs continue to focus on skill going forward, and for Liljegren to reach his potential in the Leafs organization. To see more of Liljegren in action, check out this video showcasing his impressive performance at this year’s U18 tournament.
Liljegren very excited Toronto took him: "It feels amazing." Mentions Mats Sundin in reference to what he knows about Leafs.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 24, 2017