The Toronto Maple Leafs selected defenceman Timothy Liljegren with the No. 17 pick at the NHL Draft Friday night at the United Center in Chicago.
Liljegren is known for his incredible skating ability. The 18-year-old is a natural playmaker from the back end and has drawn some comparisons to Erik Karlsson, the player he most looks up to. As a member of Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League, Liljegren compiled one goal, four assists in 19 games in each of the past two seasons.
The Angelholm, Sweden native was the consensus top defenceman in the draft early in the 2016-17 campaign, however his stock fell after missing the first two months of the season as he dealt with a case of mononucleosis. Liljegren admitted at the recent Scouting Combine he felt he returned from his illness too soon but that the experience could end up helping him in the long run.
“It wasn’t quite the season I had hoped for, but I think it will turn out useful for me in the long run,” Liljegren told David Carlsson of The Hockey Writers prior to the draft. “Mentally, I’ve just had to push through. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this kind of setback before.”
This marks the first time in four years that the team did not have a top-10 pick—William Nylander went eighth in 2014, Mitch Marner went fourth in 2015 and Calder Trophy winner Auston Matthews went first in 2016. The Maple Leafs hadn’t selected a blueliner in the first round since Morgan Rielly in 2012.
“He’s a talented young man and when he fell that far it was a no-brainer,” Leafs assistant general manager Mark Hunter told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on the television broadcast. “He had mono for eight weeks, he was out for a long period of time and anybody that’s had mono knows how much it take out of your body.
“When he got back going it took some time, but he’s an elite talent, and elite skater and can move pucks and Toronto Maple Leafs fans will really enjoy him.”