With the 76th overall slot, Swedish centre David Lilja checks in.
A high energy player who has represented his country a few times, produced in the junior ranks and was a regular in the Allsvenskan this season, Lilja is someone who could hear his name called in the latter parts of the draft.
Lilja is a dependable two-way centre who plays a pretty linear style of hockey.
- Age/Birthdate: 17.65/ January 23, 2000
- Birthplace: Karlskoga, SWE
- Frame:5-foot-11/ 168 lbs
- Position: Centre
- Handedness: Left
- Draft Year Team: BIK Karlskoga(Allsvenskan)
- J18 Elit (West|Spring) Most Goals (12)
- U17 WHC Gold Medal
- Hlinka Memorial Bronze Medal
- U18 WJC Bronze Medal
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Lilja started the season off hot but then hit a wall and didn’t produce at all throughout the latter parts of the season. He did represent Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka and U18 tournaments but was held to a total of one goal.
Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)
Lilja’s WOWY GF% is not a good look for the young pivot as generally, the players performed better when away from Lilja and that is not a good sign.
Allsvenskan is the second division in professional hockey in Sweden and spending the majority of your season as a player in your NHL draft year is generally an encouraging sign. 22.9% of statistically comparable players went onto success NHL careers with Vegas Golden Knights centre William Karlsson and Carolina Hurricanes centre Victor Rask being the closest comparable players. Both of those players produced a slightly higher rate but not a drastic amount.
Lilja’s production is not something that jumps off the page, nor is his underlying data working in his favour. The fact he remained in the Allsvenskan for the duration of the year and was able to carve out a depth role is a good sign.
Lilja is a smart player who plays with pace and tempo, while not giving up an inch on the ice. He will get in on the forecheck, get back on the back-check, and has some speed to make it all happen. His work ethic is the best part of his game and is something that helps to keep in the lineup and makes the coach want to keep throwing him out there despite the lack of offensive production.
The Karlskoga born centre is smart, skilled and has good vision with the puck.
His smaller role with Karlskoga didn’t allow him to display his skill regularly but he has underrated puck handling skills and patience with the puck
— BIK Karlskoga (@BIK_Karlskoga) March 4, 2018
In all honesty, the argument can be made that he asked to play a specific role for his club and he did to the best of his abilities while sacrificing the opportunities to be an offensive player. But there is some skill to his game and that could show with more opportunity.
He will need to show those attributes more often to confidently say that he can project as an NHL player. His work ethic and smarts are things that separate him from some other players and if he is given a larger next year, which I think can happen, we will see an uptick in his production and those question marks about his offensive ceiling should quickly disappear.
His spot in our rankings is likely a lot higher than where he actually goes but the pGPS success rate and his versatile skillset make him worth a late round flyer.
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CanucksArmy’s 2018 NHL Draft Rankings