International Ice Hockey Federation

Worlds Juniors Liljegren’s goal

Worlds Juniors Liljegren’s goal

Leafs prospect missed '17 tourney due to illness

Published 04.08.2017 10:56 GMT-4 | Author Dhiren Mahiban
Worlds Juniors Liljegren’s goal
Timothy Liljegren missed the last World Juniors but represented Sweden at the past two IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championships. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / HHOF-IIHF Images
After a 2016/17 season to forget, Timothy Liljegren is out to take care of unfinished business.

The Swedish blueliner had his season derailed by a bout of mononucleosis in September leading to a less than ideal draft season.

Though he returned from the illness in time, Liljegren was left off Sweden’s roster for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. The battle with mono also left Liljegren struggling to find ice time. He started the season with Rogle, but eventually moved to Timra in an effort to see an increase in playing time.

“Obviously it’s a huge goal for me to be on that roster,” Liljegren said of the 2018 World Juniors. “I wanted to be at the World Juniors last year, but I had mono so it was a bit difficult so I’ll try my best to be on the roster this year.”

The bouncing around also caused Liljegren’s draft stock to plummet. Once pegged as the top defenceman for the 2017 NHL draft, Liljegren fell to No. 17 and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, having a full summer of off-season training has the 18-year-old feeling confident about the upcoming season.

“I feel a lot stronger, I feel better on the ice physically, it feels good,” Liljegren said on Thursday at the World Junior Summer Showcase, a U20 tournament in Plymouth, Michigan that includes Canada, Finland, Sweden and host USA.

Despite missing last year’s tournament, Liljegren is a lock to be on Sweden’s 2018 IIHF World Junior roster for the under-20 event, which takes place in Buffalo.

Swedish coach Tomas Monten went as far as pulling the defenceman aside before the summer showcase to calm any nerves.

“I think Timothy started out good,” Monten said. “I tried to talk to him coming in here that he doesn’t have a lot to prove, to try to play his game, and I think he did. I think he can be an asset for us.”

Without Liljegren in the line-up Sweden fell 2-1 to Russia in the bronze medal game at last year’s tournament while being led offensively by Alex Nylander’s five goals and seven assists.

Even though he was overseas playing pro in Sweden, Liljegren kept an eye on the tournament, which was played in Montreal and Toronto and was particularly impressed by a then 16-year-old Rasmus Dahlin.

“I think Rasmus Dahlin was obviously pretty fun to watch, he’s an exceptional talent,” Liljegren said of the potential 2018 first overall pick.

The prospect of playing alongside Dahlin at the 2018 tournament has Liljegren excited.

“I’m looking forward to it, he’s a fun guy to watch, fun guy to be around,” said Liljegren. “In the locker room he’s so calm and humble. He really doesn’t let all the hype get to his head.”

After being drafted by the Leafs in June, Liljegren attended the club’s development camp allowing him an opportunity to get familiar with the team and city, which selected him.

“Really just learning about what it’s like to be a Leaf, to be a professional and come to work every day,” Liljegren said of what he learned during the camp. “I met some of the pros in Toronto and got to train with them. That was a fun experience for me, I learned a lot.

“(I learned) about the media and stuff, it’s pretty big in Toronto and all the fans and stuff too so just be a professional and think about what you write on Twitter and stuff like that basically.”

Following the camp, Liljegren signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Leafs.

Liljegren still isn’t 100 per cent certain where he’ll play this coming season. If he doesn’t make the Leafs roster, he has the option to play with the American Hockey League’s Marlies or return to his pro club in Sweden.

Regardless of where he spends the 2017/18 season, Liljegren will be working on rounding out his defensive game.

“I try to do the hard plays when they come to me instead of looking for the hard plays,” said Liljegren, who has admitted he plays a high-risk game. “I really think I’ve been improving on that in this tournament.”

According to Monten, Liljegren needs to focus on picking his spots better.

“Timothy is a skilled player, he’s going to make skilled plays,” said Monten. “He can’t just force them, he can’t look for them all the time, make sure he plays 70 per cent of the time like a defensive defenceman and everything else is going to come.”

 

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