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Nation Network 2017 Prospect Profile: #6 – Timothy Liljegren

The mighty have fallen.

Timothy Liljegren entered the 2016-17 season as the undisputed best 2017 NHL Entry Draft eligible defender with the chance at pushing for first overall for all skaters. Now some establishments have dropped him as far as within the 20s.

What happened?

Obviously from where we rank Liljegren you can already tell that we view him highly; Lily comes in at number six for our prospect profile series.

Bio:

  • Age: 18-years-old, 1999-04-30
  • Birthplace: Kristianstad, SWE
  • Position: RD
  • Handedness: Right
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 192 lbs
  • Draft Year Team: Rögle BK

Stats:

pGPS S pGPS N pGPS % pGPS P/82 Expected Value
 1 2 69.3  41.8 29

Read about pGPS here.

Scouts:

NHL (CSS) FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS HOCKEYPROSPECT MCKEEN’S
 
ISS BUTTON Pronman
6 (EU) 22 10 20 8 10 13

Mike Morreale – NHL.com:

“Liljegren (6-0, 191) missed two months because of mononucleosis earlier in the season but is a solid prospect with great upside. He’s calm, smart and creative, and can move the puck with authority.”

Dennis Schellenberg – Hockey Prospectus:

“Very strong and matured puckmoving skills, delivers at both ends of the ice, has a booming shot and competes real hard in his own zone. A leader on the blue line who is competing against men in Sweden for the second season.”

Peter Harling – DobberProspects:

“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 powerfuil skating stride. He hakes [sic.] 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.”

Corey Pronman – ESPN:

“When healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic offensive defensemen of the past few draft classes.”
“He’s quite creative and quite skilled. He can make the in-tight plays and control the puck in ways that distinguish him as a puck mover. LIljegren skates very well and can get up in a rush, but it’s his skill and offensive mind that elevate him to the highest levels.”

Our Take:

Liljegren missed the start of the season due to an infection of mononucleosis. Historically speaking, players infected with mono the summer prior or at the start of their draft eligible season perform below their true talent level. Again historically speaking, these players tend to be undervalued by both statistical models and the scouting community.

This is not always the case, but it has been a historical pattern.

Despite the handicap, Liljegren still had a solid season. He put up five points in the SHL in nineteen games played. That does not seem like much, but Liljegren was playing in one of the toughest non-NHL leagues to produce.

Liljegren is about average age for the draft, but what makes him so impressive is his that four of his five points were primary points and that these points were scored in the SHL. The SEAL model attempts to adjust for those factors, putting Liljegren’s production in terms more understandable and comparable to the larger data set in North America.

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.

With such high scoring at a relatively young age, we’d project Liljegren to have a fairly small but successful cohort set.

There are only two players that matched with Liljegren, and both of them produced less and one was substantially older. The one player that did match was NHL first pairing defender Tobias Enstrom. The other cohort is Oscar Hedman, a fifth round pick in 2004 and Victor Hedman’s brother.

Enstrom peaked as a bona fide first pairing defender, although size and durability may have limited the length of that peak. Hedman meanwhile never traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, but a veteran of 703 Swedish pro-level games.

We can add some more information and create separation of these statistical cohorts by introducing qualitative information — ie: the eye test.

Liljegren is a wonderful skater. He’s quick, fast, and mobile. He can change directions with ease, accelerates efficiently, and produces an extremely powerful stride. His skating mechanics are a thing of beauty. He uses this to move the puck down the ice, join the rush, and create offense.

While both Hedman and Enstrom were well respected for their skating mobility, Liljegren definitely ranks far greater overall due to superior explosiveness and top gear.

In terms of offense, both Hedman and Enstrom were well respected passers, but rarely shot and lacked any heaviness behind their shot. Liljegren has plus-level puck skills, but carries an additional weapon in both his wrist and slap shot.

The one area scouts seem to be fairly uncertain over is hockey IQ. There are those that find Liljegren highly intelligent, while others think otherwise. I believe this controversy contrives from Liljegren’s playstyle. Liljegren is a dynamic offensive talent, who produces creative high-quality plays. This causes many to view him as highly intelligent. However, the right-shot defender also is a risk taker, which can cause some high-profile blunders.

Personally, I’m not as concerned about high-profile blunders. One thing hockey analytics has taught us is that a risky player should not be defined by the risks they take. It’s a tradeoff of risk, reward, and relative overall value versus the alternative choices. Some of the best players in the NHL make risky plays that cause high-profile giveaways. Some of the worst players in the NHL are also the safest.

The overall trend in the NHL is that both teams and players are risk averse to a fault. It handicaps them. There are times and places for the safe plays, but they can actually be worse off in the long run with tradeoffs.

Defensively Liljegren plays well enough. He is not viewed as a defensive liability and the term two-way defender follows him around, not offensive specialist. His skating and ability to read the game as it unfolds places him in the right places at the right time. The biggest weakness is his weakness, as in he lacks strength. Strength, especially at this age, is the easiest variable to change (heck, I’m over 30 and I’ve moved from nothing to a 405+ lbs deadlift in two years).

Then add in the mono variable. Loss of muscle, fatigue, and soreness are all medium-term symptoms of individuals recovering from mononucleosis. We expect Liljegren to be weaker physically (which makes his powerful skating all the more impressive).

This of course brings up the question: how good will Liljegren be when he rebounds from a full offseason?

It’s a tough question to answer. We do know is that Liljegren put up an impressive point pace according to SEAL, yet he actually put up similar numbers the year prior. Without mono, it is highly reasonable that Liljegren could have surpassed Timmins and Valimaki for being the top producing defender in the draft, while also being the far more dynamic player.

This is why we view Liljegren so highly and why he ranks as our top defender in the draft.

  • So in a perfect world, the Canucks trade Tanev to get 3rd, take Glass or Vilardi, trade down from 5th to ~10th and snag whichever of Suzuki or Liljegren has fallen, then pick three times in the second round and come out of this draft with a stellar collection of talent?

    • Lumme21

      Unfortunately the Canucks were (I think) the only team not to interview Liljegren at the combine, so there’s good reason to believe they’re not interested in him. They seem to be more into the idea of taking Makar if they take a defenseman, since Linden and Benning apparently took him out to dinner after the combine.

      My guess is that if they do get the #3 pick as people are hinting, they would use it to pick whichever center they want that’s not named Nolan or Hischier, and then use their own #5 pick on Makar since he should be available still.

      If that’s how it goes down, we might be in for 10+ years of regrets from fans who wanted Liljegren instead.

      • Neil B

        It’s possible that the reason they didn’t interview Liljegren at the combines is because they already have a good book on him, and the reason they took Makar out for dinner is because they do not have a good book on him.

        But I do suspect that Liljegren is going to suffer the same draft fate as Jones & Chychrun, and fall a ways in the draft. I still think that he has an excellent chance of playing in the NHL as a 18-year old.

    • truthseeker

      In a perfect world the canucks would never trade Tanev for anything less than a performing young NHL center, a prospect and a first round pick.

      You’re valuation of Tanev is stupidly low.

  • Laxbruh15

    Absolutely take vilardi over glass. Glass looks like a second coming of skille. Villardi looks like he could be an adequate number one with production and a strong game that’s fairly overt. He’s the safer pick. Can’t use that high of a pick with someone that has so much uncertainty with little upside. Would be happier with mittlestadt.

    • Glass has been ranked top 10 by every list I’ve seen, and top 5 on many of them (including, by process of elimination, Canucks Army).

      I’m guessing you, like me, have only watched highlights and read summaries, so I’m amazed you can speak with such certainty. Both of them look really good. Based on those rankings, highlights, and summaries, I’d also favour Vilardi to Glass, but wouldn’t fault management for taking either.

        • Do you apply that same idiotic logic to anything else in life?

          “I think the government’s new tax policy’s a bad thing”
          – You’re not a politician, you’re not allowed to have an opinion!

          “Man, that new pop song tearing up the charts is terrible”
          – You couldn’t write one, so how dare you criticize!

          “This loaf of bread I got at the bakery tastes awful.”
          – You’re not a baker, so you’re wrong!

          Most people over the age of six understand that criticism is different from saying “I could do this better myself”. I’m under no illusions that I could run a hockey team – I think most people here, including the Canucks Army writers, are the same. That doesn’t mean I can’t look at Benning and co’s moves and say “wow, that looks bad, I bet that’s going to make the team worse”, and given the team’s recent terrible and unintentional finishes, most of those criticisms have been proven correct.

    • Bud Poile

      If the Canucks don’t trade for 3rd overall and Vilardi is long gone at #5 I would hope they take Makar or Liljegren.
      There seems to be a plethora of second line projected centers and the Nucks have two in Hank and Bo,already.

  • Steamer

    Thanks Garret. Agree he’s the best D in the draft, although I have him at #3 & he’d still be at #2 if not for Hishier’s ascent.
    An unbelievable skater, great edge-work, superior speed, especially first 2 steps, rocket shot, offensive dynamo.

  • Pat Quinn Way

    Liljegren has been my top choice for a long time and remains so. This kid has huge upside and only the bout of mono took him off the radar in typically fickle pre-draft fashion.

    Guys, this is another Benning disaster in the making dating back to last year when instead of taking Juolevi, we should’ve taken the instant NHL ready star Matty Tkachuk and then Liljegren this year! Jimbo should’ve KNOWN and planned for this but hey… you can lead an old horse to water…

    Timothy is the perfect fit on D with the league now all-in on big, fast puck moving offensive D who can jump into the play, put up points and QB the PP ala the Pens and Preds – all of which we are crying out for and the likes of Guddy and Juolevi cannot give us!

    Kudos to CA for this profile, spot on – Mark my words guys, someone is getting a steal with this kid, and it won’t be us judging from the combine – always the bridesmaid eh…

    • truthseeker

      Yeah…big 13 goal Tkachuk. Big no show in the playoffs Tkachuk. Cheap shot artist Tkachuk.

      Yeah….we really should have passed on the best D prospect in the draft for a winger. The most worthless position in hockey. If Taylor Hall brings back adam larrson, what does Tkachuk bring back? Sbisa? Not even. lol. Be lucky to get a minor league bottom pairing D for Tkachuk. Guy was invisible in the playoffs. lol.

      Another self loathing loser post from a self loathing loser.

      • Pat Quinn Way

        Yawn… haven’t got much time to waste on you pal but here’s your regular humiliation…

        Let’s see, 19 years old playing in the show RIGHT OUTTA THE DRAFT 1 of only 4 first rounders doing so, 48 points – good enough for THIRD on the nucks, third in the entire league in rookie plus minus, sixth in the league in rookie scoring, plays with a physical edge the powderpuff Canucks can only dream of.

        Juolevi last seen going backwards in the minors… in a redraft he has sunk to 13th with Montreal’s D Sergachev and Boston’s D McAvoy leapfrogging him!
        http://www.thehockeynews.com/news/article/how-would-the-2016-nhl-draft-unfold-if-we-did-it-again-today

        The most worthless position wtf – so by that dumb logic Ovechkin, Pat Kane, Kessel, Marchand and many more are worthless hahaha get lost kid – you are a joke

        PS
        a number one centre, a prospect and a first pick for Tanev!!!!! ahahahaha ahahaha

        • Fortitude00

          Can’t really judge players from a draft after one or even two years. Tkachuk looks like a good player but the Canucks had/have other more important roles to fill first. Toronto went BPA available and couldn’t find a top centre for years.

  • Fortitude00

    I would love to see the Canucks draft this guy and if they pass I hope it’ll be Makar. We really need to find a RHS d man to man our PP for next ten years and bring the puck up the ice.

    Stay clear of the centres in this draft because its a role of the dice to figure out who might be a potential top line centre and we already have a second line centre.