While the Colorado Avalanche might benefit from the services of Timothy Liljegren, fourth-overall is a little high for the defenseman.
When I wrote my Colorado Avalanche draft profile on Timothy Liljegren, I was practically outfitting him in burgundy and blue. He’s on the small size for a defenseman — 6-foot, 192 pounds — but that’s no longer considered a hindrance in the Avs system.
The young Swede was tearing it up in hockey. During the 2015-16 season he played 29 games for the Rögle BK J20 in the SuperElit league. He got 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) and was an impressive +22. He also played 19 games (1 goal, 4 assists) in the SHL, the highest division in the Swedish hockey system.
Then mono happened — the dreaded “kissing disease” struck the young defenseman near the beginning of the 2016-17 season. He missed almost two months with the disease. He didn’t return to hockey until November.
And he didn’t overwhelm when he returned. At one point he got demoted to the Allsvenskan league, though he turned up in the SuperElit (5 goals, 2 assists in 12 games) and even the SHL (1 goal, 4 assists in 19 games).
That made Liljegren’s stock fall. He’d been considered the top defenseman in the 2017 NHL Draft class. But his play was considered weak after his return from illness.
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San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton played with a torn ACL and MCL in the playoffs. Hockey players are tough. They can return to the game after getting stitches and even score game-winning goals, à la Colorado Avalanche center John Mitchell.
Well, illness can be a little different than injury. Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. The illness results in fever, severe sore throat, swollen glands, weakness and fatigue. The virus can also affect the spleen.
There is no real treatment for mono, which is spread via saliva (which is why it’s called the kissing disease), mucus and tears. For the most part suffers simply have to rest and take care of themselves.
Here’s the kicker — according to Web MD, weakness from mono can affect suffers for months.
Timothy Liljegren didn’t have a stellar draft year. But the Swedish defenseman suffered a disease that potentially left him depleted for months.
Scouting Timothy Liljegren
So, defenseman Timothy Liljegren was scouted as a top defensive prospect, but his stock dropped after a bout with mononucleosis. Here’s the thing — the effects of mono aren’t permanent. That means Liljegren should have the same talents he did before contracting the disease.
According to Future Considerations, Liljegren is a creatively offensive defenseman with elite skating — strongly fluid and agile. He has excellent stick skills, including strong breakout passes and a strong, accurate wrist shot. He’s known for having a high hockey IQ.
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports is also highly impressed by Timothy Liljegren’s skating:
"“He moves well both forwards and backwards, with excellent speed and acceleration. He also has very good edge work and pivots. As such he can cover a ton of ice. Liljegren can make offensive plays rushing the puck, or pinching in at the blue line; but still has the speed to get back defensively.”"
Kerr also considers that Liljegren has top-notch stick skills, enhanced by his hockey vision. Naturally, as an offensive defenseman, Liljegren still needs defensive work. All in all, though, Timothy’s ceiling is high.
Timothy Liljegren and the Colorado Avalanche
Timothy Liljegren is ranked #6 for European skaters by Central Scouting. Scouts project him to go between numbers six and eight.
That seems to put the defenseman out of the Colorado Avalanche’s draft range. The team has the number four pick. There are going to be players ranked higher still available at that selection. Indeed, fellow Euro defenseman Miro Heiskanen is ranked two positions ahead of him and may now be considered the top defenseman in his draft class.
I don’t think I’d want the Colorado Avalanche to select Timothy Liljegren with their fourth-overall pick. It’s true that his speed and stick skills are a good match for the team’s new player mold. However, they already have defensemen in that mold — especially Tyson Barrie, but also Mark Barberio.
That said, this is a strange draft year. For all we know Timothy Liljegren’s draft stock could plummet. Not just Miro Heiskanen but also Cale Makar and even Juuso Valimaki and Callan Foote could go ahead of Liljegren in terms of defensemen.
In short, Timothy could fall to a high second-round pick. And if that were the case, I would definitely want the Colorado Avalanche to select him. Because the effects of mono aren’t permanent, and he’s likely to return to his former glory.