The Calgary Flames love Swedish players. In their history, some of their absolute best players have been Swedish: from Kent Nilsson and Hakan Loob right down to current fan favourite Mikael Backlund. In the 2017 NHL Draft, should the cards fall just right, the Flames could add another name to their Swedish pantheon.
Let’s introduce you all to Timothy Liljegren, a talented defenseman from Sweden who had the misfortune of contracting mono at the worst possible time for his draft stock.
From Dobber Prospects:
Liljegren was the early second overall ranked prospect for the 2017 draft. He missed time due to Mono and injuries which cost him a shot at the World Junior and subsequently he has slipped down some rankings. He is a mobile two-way puck moving defender that moves the puck up ice either by crisp, smart passes or carrying the puck with his long powerful skating stride. He makes good reads and reacts smart and quickly processing the game at a high level. Liljegren has shown well playing against men at the pro level in Sweden as well as in international tournaments such as the U18 in North Dakota and the Five Nations most recently. Don’t let Liljegren fall down your draft rankings as he should be the first defenceman selected in any draft.
(Peter Harling at Dobber really likes him.)
From Future Considerations:
An active, offensive-minded rearguard who likes the puck on his stick…skates with strong fluidity and agility, getting from one point to the next effortlessly as his feet always seem to be in motion…can take the puck end-to-end a la Erik Karlsson…his offensive IQ is off the charts as is his creativity…makes strong breakout passes to move along the attack to his forwards before jumping into the play himself…has a strong wrist shot that is quick off his blade, strong and accurate, and he gets some solid velocity on his slap shot…continually reading the play and moving as he tries to be in strong position to contribute as an option when not in possession of the puck himself…can be a high-risk, high-reward guy as he does take chances that can lead to turnovers here or there…a game-breaker…projected as a top-pairing offensive NHL defenseman.
Way back in 2014-15, young Oliver Kylington crashed and burned down the draft rankings due to an uneven season in a high-end men’s league. The knock on Kylington was his attitude and his defensive play, and the two were related: scouts I’ve chatted with chuckled that at times, it was like Kylington felt he didn’t need to be good away from the puck because he was so good with it.
Liljegren is sliding down the draft rankings, but it’s almost entirely injury-related. He began the season as Bob McKenzie’s “undisputed top defenseman,” and he slid afterwards.
Liljegren missed much of the first half of the season with mononucleosis. 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.
Liljegren is a very good two-way right-shooting defenseman according to the scouting reports, with the worry being that he missed a big chunk of this year due to his illness and that may have set back his development a bit at a time where lots of players take a big step forward physically, mentally and in terms of their performances versus their peer group.
We’re going to have to put the “sample size” warning right up front, because Liljegren played all over the place this season: the SHL, Allsvenskan, SuperElit (Swedish juniors) and Sweden’s U18 league. He also played for Team Sweden at the Under-18 Worlds.
In terms of the SHL, he had five points in 19 games – four of them were primary points – and was fourth among all under-19 players in points-per-game in the league. Among defenders, he was ahead of fellow 2017 draft prospect Erik Brannstrom in per-game production. Relative to his peer group, playing against grown men in a tough league while hampered with illness, he was the best junior-aged defender in the league in terms of production.
The Canucks Army number-crunchers go a bit further, using their SEAL analysis to contextualize his production in terms of his age, usage and the league itself:
SEAL suggests that Liljegren’s production was the third most impressive of first time draft eligible defenders. The only two higher scorers were Juuso Valimaki and Conor Timmins.
Availability and fit
Liljegren is a player that the scouting community was salivating over before the season. He was supposed to be a top five pick. He’s got no real holes in his game. He’s big. He skates well. He’s good with and without the puck. He had mono and, despite all that, still turned in one of the better draft eligible seasons in his class. If he falls to 16th overall, the Flames would be rather silly not to take him because of his skill-set and ceiling. He’s not a player like Kylington that fell due to deficiencies. His only deficiency was that he got sick.
Will he fall that far? It’ll probably be close. Half of the rankings and projections have him going at around Calgary’s pick. Bob McKenzie has him at 16th, for example. A few rankings have him going well before the Flames pick. If he falls to them, he would be the textbook definition of found money.