Toronto Maple Leafs Need Liljegren, Robertson to Take Next Step

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Under new GM Brad Treliving, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had an interesting off-season, to say the least.

The acquisitions of Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi via free agency are ones that have been wildly praised by the fanbase, while the likes of John Klingberg and Ryan Reaves for a combined 5.5 million dollars have not been well received.

Unfortunately, these are mistakes that Trevliving will have to live with, leaving some pressure on younger, cheaper players such as Timothy Liljegren and Nick Robertson.

Timothy Liljegren is set to play in his third full season with the Maple Leafs. The 24-year-old, right-shot defenseman has played most of his career on the Leafs third-pairing and has been very productive in that role.

Toronto Maple Leafs Need Liljegren, Robertson to Take Next Step

In the 2022-23 season, he played most of his minutes alongside former Maple Leaf Rasmus Sandin and soon to be 40 year old, Mark Giordano.

With the departure of Sandin at last season’s trade deadline and the assumption that Giordano will be the 7th defenseman this coming season, Liljegren will most likely be playing with a new partner.

Who will that be?

All signs point to a second pairing of Jake McCabe and Liljegren or John Klingberg if Sheldon Keefe decides to keep his top pairing of Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie intact.

Though, Liljegren and Rielly did play their fair share of minutes together last season, recording 203 minutes on ice together, which was sixth most for all Maple Leafs defense pairs. Maybe we see Liljegren promoted to the top pair at some point during the season.

Either way, Liljegren will have to take a big step this year in order to become the defensive prowess that the Toronto blueline has been missing.

With his great defensive stick, ability to keep opposing forwards to the outside off the rush and a good first pass, Liljegren should have a comfortable transition into the top 4, if Sheldon Keefe gives him the opportunity.

Moving on to the highly skilled, relentless winger Nick Robertson.

Robertson has been able to perform at a PPG pace in the AHL and has been effective when called upon in 31 NHL games to this point.

However, Robertson’s inability to stay healthy has plagued his development. Playing a combined 55 games between the NHL and AHL over the past two seasons isn’t great for a player like Robertson, who could be an effective middle 6 winger at the NHL level.

The upside to Robertson is that he is still only 21 years old and when he has played in the NHL he does not look out of place.

He has managed 2 goals, 3 assists in 15 games last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though that is not at all impressive to look at on paper, he was playing limited minutes averaging just 10:53 a game in that time.

With a potential spot available on the third line this year, alongside a crafty playmaking centre like Max Domi and a great 200-foot player in Calle Jarnkrok, Robertson could be the third-line scoring winger this team has been missing for so many years now.

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With Liljegren potentially jumping up to the top 4 and Robertson hopefully translating his scoring ability from the AHL to the NHL, the Leafs may finally get some much-needed production outside of the core 4.