5. Timothy Liljegren Will Be on the Top Pairing
In one of our earlier coverage, we had mentioned Timothy Liljegren as one of the potential players on the Leafs that could have a breakout season this year.
After all, he is a former first round draft pick back in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and was even predicted to go in the top three if it wasn’t for a bout against mononucleosis prior to the draft that caused him to miss significant playing time.
Nevertheless, the Toronto Maple Leafs ended up getting him as a tremendous value pick at 17th overall.
Early on in his professional career with the Leafs, he appeared to have needed more seasoning along with an adjustment period coming overseas as he spend multiple seasons in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies before finally getting a permanent spot on the Leafs roster beginning in 2021-22.
With the help and guidance of veteran defenceman and defensive partner Mark Giordano on the team, Liljegren has drastically improved in both his offensive and defensive aspects of the game, and has essentially become an important staple to the Leafsroster going forward.
The Leafs have longed for a stable and reliable top-pairing defenceman for Rielly all these years. They have tried Ron Hainsey, Ilya Lyubushkin, T.J. Brodie, and even Luke Schenn in recent times over the years. But it may finally be the time Liljegren rises to his first round pick status and becomes the ideal defensive partner for Rielly.
Nevertheless, Liljegren may begin the season perhaps on the third pairing with Mark Giordano. But as he gains more and more confidence and playing time as the year wears on with his abilities on full display, look for him to be moved up to the top pair to help complement Rielly on a lethal top scoring line for the Leafs in the not-so-distant future.