Robin Lindgren of Expressen talked to Timothy Liljegren recently about the AHL, leaving the SHL and his chance to play for Sweden at the World Junior Championships in a few days.
The move to the AHL, which in hindsight looks like an obvious choice, wasn’t so obvious ahead of time. In the modern era of the AHL, since 1990, there have been less than 40 U19 AHL players who have held a regular roster spot. At the moment, there are two others in the AHL: Filip Chytil and Klim Kostin, both of whom are at the WJC with Liljegren.
In the interview, he explains his thought process on moving to Toronto:
"We conducted a dialogue all the time with Rögle. I felt that in the meantime, in Toronto during the summer and at training camp, I developed a lot and felt quite quickly that the best thing for my development was to stay in AHL.
"At the same time, I felt I was not ready in Sweden or had really proved that I was a good player in Sweden.”
But what ultimately made your decision?
“The risk of a year slipping away in Rögle with little playing time plus the chances of development that were in Marlies made the decision quite easy in the end.”
A lot of the time, the SHL is the obvious choice for a young player, but Liljegren seems to have chosen wisely as Rögle are heading for relegation and undergoing a bit of teardown and rebuild. He might have ended up with more ice time than it seemed in the summer, but the process to get there would have been very rough.
Meanwhile on the Mariles, with a minor injury taking him out of the action for a bit, he’s played 17 games and has one goal and eight assists. And yes, by points per game for a guy his age, that’s very impressive. He’s also playing on one of the best teams in the AHL, where points aren’t hard to come by just by passing to any one of the forwards.
He says this about playing for the Marlies:
What has your time in AHL given you?
"I think time on the Marlies has been very instructive.”
Where do you feel that you developed primarily in your play?
"We are a young team mixed with a few older players, and there is always competition for ice time, and I think it makes it a very good environment to develop in. I think I have taken great steps in the defensive game, but also in making better decisions with the puck.”
As far as the WJC goes, where he is one of three major offensive defencemen on the team with Rasmus Dahlin and Eric Brännström ahead of him. He has to fight a bit there for his place in the lineup as well. In the opening tuneup match last night in Rochester, the Swedes tuned up the Danes for real, winning the game 13-1.
You can see all of the Swedish goals here, but Liljegren features on the first two only with primary assists on both. He’s off on the far side of the ice playing the right side. In the foreground, you will see his partner Linus Högberg, who hugs the blueline so Liljegren can join in the offensive play. He might not get any credit on those goals, but without a guy like Högberg, a player like Liljegren has to play a lot more conservatively.
The next game for Liljegren is on December 22 vs the USA, and then we should expect Sweden to make their final cuts right before the WJC begins on December 26.