It’s been an interesting season for eligible prospects for the 2017 Entry Draft. Nolan Patrick has suffered through injury, Nico Hischier has shot up boards, and the entire defense group has been mixed up. This time last year, Timothy Liljegren was the easy pick for #2 in the draft behind Patrick, but now, as Corey Pronman of ESPN points out, Liljegren may not even be in the top-2 defenseman, let alone the whole draft. Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has heard the same thing, while Grant McCagg of Recrutes has had him outside the top-10 for a while now.
Liljegren has battled through a bout with mononucleosis, and struggled to get playing time at the top level with Rogle, his Swedish club. He’s now dropping down draft boards, including even the NHL’s Central Scouting rankings, which had him sixth in their final rankings among European skaters. He now has a chance to go below both Cale Makar and Miro Heiskanen among defenders, and fall somewhere into the middle of round one. That does not by any means make him a poor prospect, in fact the very opposite—whichever team that drafts him will still be getting a top talent, but at a reduced price.
Back in November of 2015, TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button compared Liljegren to Drew Doughty, saying that he also had a bit of “Erik Karlsson offensive flair sprinkled in.” While draft comparables tend to be a bit hyperbolic in nature—he’ll almost assuredly not reach the heights of either Doughty or Karlsson—the Swedish defender does still possess the excellent skating ability and vision on the ice that made him so projectable prior to this season.
Heiskanen and Makar however have just been much more consistent with their development this season, and could both go in the top-5 come June. Makar—who has also drawn comparison’s to the Ottawa captain—has already committed to UMass Amherst, where he’ll be developed by a former Karlsson coach in Greg Carvel. Heiskanen meanwhile will likely continue to play in the Finnish professional league, where he found success this season. The 17-year old left-handed shot is currently dominating the U18 Worlds, scoring eight points in four tournament games thus far, including a dominating effort against Canada yesterday.
Should a team miss out on those two, Liljegren is one of the best consolation prizes you can ask for. In a draft that has no real consensus from picks 5-15, there should be some action on the floor between GMs looking to get their top target. Perhaps we’ll see more trading than the last few years, especially if players like Liljegren continue to fall.