Timothy Liljegren has a hill to climb before he gets to the draft. He was selected to play for Team Sweden at the U18 World Championship in Slovakia, and the tournament gave him a stage to show off his skills ahead of the draft. But an underwhelming performance last season spawned reports that he was sliding in rankings — will his credible showing in Slovakia manage to stop the slide?
In seven games played in the tournament, Liljegren had two assists and four PIM, about what you'd expect for a young defenseman. But he also had 28 shots on goal (second-most for Team Sweden's defensemen, the first being Erik Brannstrom at 37), which averages to four per game, showing that he is definitely an offensive-minded defenseman.
Liljegren, once ranked by TSN at second overall, spent last season plagued by health issues. He contracted mononucleosis, came back to play "too quickly" (in his words), and had to take another month off before he could play again. Even with his struggles, he had five points in 19 games in the SHL. Among players under 18 in the SHL, that put him 4th in points, but first in points per game. Only the aforementioned Erik Brannstrom was ahead of him in points for U18 defensemen.
To give his performance perspective, in Victor Hedman’s U18 season in the SHL, he had four points in 39 games. Due to Hedman’s December birthday, compared to Liljegren’s April birthday, Hedman did have another season in the SHL before being drafted, and put up 21 points in 43 games. Erik Karlsson has a similar birthday as Liljegren. When Karlsson was a U18 player, he only played in thirteen SHL games between the regular season and playoffs, and only had one point.
When Liljegren returned, he wasn't given much ice time, so he was loaned to Timrå of the Allsvenskan league for five games. Allsvenskan is Sweden’s second tier professional league below the Swedish Hockey League. He finished out the year by playing in the playoffs for Rogle BK’s U20 team, as well as one playoff game for the U18 team. For the U20 team in the playoffs, he contributed five points and a goal in three games.
In an interview with Aftonbladet, Liljegren also said going through this adversity was good for him, and he became mentally tougher because of it. Because Liljegren was returned to Timrå, THW dings him as having "yet to prove his worth in a senior league." Fair enough. But on the other hand, THW points out that "not even this season seems to have ruined his reputation."
Currently ranked seventh overall by Future Considerations, Liljegren is their second-highest ranked defenseman in the draft. He is also that rare bird, the right-shot D. He is a medium-sized prospect at 6'0 and 192 lbs, but at age 18, is likely to put on bulk for an NHL career. He is also likely to be snapped up by the teams picking before 14th overall, but just in case he drops, the Lightning should definitely keep an eye on him.
Scouting Liljegren, Jeff Marek of Sportsnet says that he is “A strong and well balanced skater who possesses a really good shot. Good puck mover who likes it on his stick a lot.” Bob McKenzie is also bullish on his skating, and says that he is “an elite skater, both in terms of speed and agility.”
When Uncle Bob was highest on Liljegren in September of 2016, he had this to say about Liljegren: “He is seen as both a puck mover and an offensive point producer. No one is suggesting he’s the next Erik Karlsson, not by any means, but scouts say he has some of the same qualities and, therefore, has the potential to be projected as a possible top pairing defenceman in time.” More recently, McKenzie pointed out that, “While he's still viewed as a prospect with a high offensive ceiling, his spotty play in the second half, combined with Heiskanen greatly elevating his play, resulted in a big swing for both players.”
Despite his health issues, with Liljegren’s right shot and offensive capabilities, he’d fit in quite nicely in Tampa Bay. Let’s hope everyone else looks at his health and last season’s production and lets him slide.
Timothy Liljegren Career Statistics
|2012-2013||Kristianstad/Osby J18||J18 Div.1||4||0||3||3||4|
|Kristianstad/Osby J20||J20 Div.1||16||1||3||4||2|
|2013-2014||Rögle BK U16||U16 Elit||27||22||19||41||24|
|Rögle BK U16||U16 SM||3||2||2||4||0|
|2014-2015||Rögle BK U16||U16 Elit||8||9||7||16||4|
|Rögle BK J18||J18 Elit||14||4||7||11||2|
|Rögle BK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||14||3||6||9||6|
|Sweden U16 (all)||International-Jr||9||3||3||6||0|
|2015-2016||Rögle BK J18||J18 Elit||1||0||0||0||0|
|Rögle BK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||1||0||0||0||0|
|Rögle BK J20||SuperElit||29||7||15||22||26|
|Sweden U17 (all)||International-Jr||7||4||3||7||6|
|Sweden U18 (all)||International-Jr||12||1||6||7||2|
|2016-2017||Sweden U18||Hlinka Memorial||5||1||3||4||2|
|Rögle BK J18||J18 Allsvenskan||0||0||0||0||0|
|Rögle BK J20||SuperElit||12||5||2||7||8|
|Sweden U18 (all)||International-Jr||9||1||6||7||4|
Table via Elite Prospects.