And according to Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello, Timothy Liljegren, the club’s first-round selection (17th overall) in June’s NHL Draft, exemplifies this.
Speaking to Sirius XM NHL’s Jim Gordon, Lamoriello had high praise for the 18-year-old Swedish defence prospect.
“I had the opportunity to see him [at the World Junior Summer Showcase] in Plymouth this year and also at our prospect camp, and we’re extremely pleased,” Lamoriello said. “This is a young man who has outstanding hockey sense and outstanding skating ability.”
Heading into the draft this year, Liljegren was projected as a surefire top-five pick by scouts, but an unfortunate bout of mononucleosis knocked him out of the first two months of his season with Swedish team Rogle BK and his draft stock fell as he struggled to regain previous form.
Though not great for Liljegren, the Leafs benefitted greatly having him fall to them.
“Well certainly our scouts have seen him and he was highly touted the year prior to his draft, and then he actually played on several teams last year because of his mononucleosis, which gave him a major setback – he had a serious case of it,” said Lamoriello.
“Our people did not lose sight of what he was before. He has something that you can’t teach. [He] never lost his skating ability and his talent.”
Liljegren will be in a Leafs uniform at the team’s rookie tournament beginning Sept. 8. He’s more likely to play this entire upcoming season with the Marlies or Rogle BK than with the big club, but there’s always the chance he’ll impress enough to stick as Lamoriello really likes what he’s seen of him so far.
“It’s only potential, so we have to see how quickly he develops, but defencemen with his talent don’t come along often.”