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2017 NHL Draft prospect profile: Timothy Liljegren dealt with health issues, but still has a lot to offer

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The Swedish defenceman is eager to bounce back from a difficult year.

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Timothy Liljegren had a tough year. Last summer he contracted mononucleosis and it hampered his game and consequently his draft ranking, going from a top-three pick to a mid-round selection.

The skilled, puck-moving defender needed to recuperate over most of the fall before making a return, being named one of the defenders for Sweden’s preliminary World Juniors squad. But the rise of young defencemen in Sweden (especially Rasmus Dahlin) made him lose the spot in the last round of roster cuts.

Birthplace: Kristianstad, Sweden
Shoots: Right
Position: Defenceman
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 192 lbs.

Timothy Liljegren NHL draft profile | SB Nation 2017 NHL Draft...

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Liljegren played SHL hockey as a 16-year-old with Rögle, getting 19 games in during his rookie season. He got another 19 last season, even with being out almost half the season due to illness. What has made him fall in the draft rankings is probably a bit of the unknown factor, as he went on loan to Timrå in Allsvenskan for a few games before getting called back to the SHL club. The team was struggling to avoid relegation at the time. When play got a bit to physical and daunting, Rögle opted to send him down to the junior team again rather than keep him with the main team.

Image credit: EliteProspects

Liljegren is an offensive defender; much in the same mould as most defenders out of Sweden seem to be nowadays. He moves the puck well, and has a shot that is akin to a sledgehammer, something he proved when he scored his first and only goal of the season.

Liljegren said to HockeySverige.se that his fall from grace hasn’t really bothered him.

"Before I got ill I felt I had to prove that I should be ranked as high as I was, but afterward I felt more that I had to change my mindset and let the season run its course. All I could do was the best I could."

Eyes On the Prize went to Ängelholm for a chance to speak with Liljegren in February. Unfortunately, Liljegren was with the U20 team at that time, but we managed to get Anders Eldebrink (former Vancouver Canuck and Quebec Nordique, and current coach of Rögle) to speak about the young prospect.

EOTP’s Mitch Brown: Timothy Liljegren is a top prospect for this year’s draft. Where do you see his progression at this point in time?

Anders Eldebrink: He’s good with the puck. But with this club it’s important for us to stay in the league. [Liljegren] is a young guy, but he’s going to be a good player for sure. Right now, we feel it is better that he plays a lot with the juniors instead of staying with us and not playing so much. It’s pretty tough for the young guys to play in this tight league, and the defence we have is pretty stable. But he’s going to become a good player for us later.

MB: Regarding his weaknesses, what do you think he needs to work on?

AE: He’s great with the puck, really creative. He can make good passes, but sometimes he plays too difficult. But that’s a learning process.

His weakness is without the puck: the man-against-man, position playing ... he’s a little bit out of position sometimes. He’s mobile, and he follows up the rush well, and he shoots well. Really good wrist shot; quick wrist shot. You don’t see his shooting release point, but he’s really good with the puck.

Patrik Bexell: Is it because he has held onto the puck so much in the junior years?

AE: Yeah, maybe. Sometimes he plays too difficult. He always tries to do the difficult moves and the difficult passes. I was a defenceman myself for a long time, and I try to teach him as much as I can. Sometimes he goes well, sometimes he goes back to old habits. He has to learn that, and that’s maybe why he doesn’t play now because sometimes the passes can a little risky.

MB: Have you seen progression in his defensive play?

AE: Yes, I think so. He’s been better defence-wise. We work on that before practice and after practice; man-against-man in the corner, come from the right side, stick in one hand to attack stick-to-stick. We’ve been working hard on this. He’s improving.

Rankings

Hockey Prospect: 34
Future Considerations: 17
ISS: 19
Central Scouting service: 7 (European skaters)
McKeen’s: 9
Bob McKenzie: 15
Craig Button: 26

Thoughts

While Timothy Liljegren will probably be off the board when Montreal uses its first pick in the 2017 NHL Draft on Friday, one team will be grateful for a fall that was down to illness rather than a regression in his play. Liljegren might not be the best young defender in Sweden anymore (that title belongs to Dahlin) but he will still become one of those skilled puck-moving defenders that NHL teams crave. He might develop a bit more slowly than projected due to the off year, but his high-end offensive skills will benefit any team further down the line.

Should Montreal trade up to grab Liljegren if he starts to slide a bit? That’s a situation that would be interesting. Having just traded away Nathan Beaulieu and Mikhail Sergachev, the prospect pool lacks a certain depth.