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Maple Leafs prospect Timothy Liljegren hopes for more stability

Defenseman, No. 17 pick in 2017 NHL Draft, spent last season with four teams in Sweden

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Timothy Liljegren has not spent much time thinking about how his life has changed since being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (No. 17) of the 2017 NHL Draft. The best he could come up with? A new haircut and his Twitter following (@Timmeliljegren) that has increased to more than 7,600.

When he was drafted, Liljegren, a 6-foot, 191-pound right-handed shooting defenseman, went on stage for a customary photo in a Maple Leafs jersey and hat and had long following hair. However, in keeping with Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello's policy, he arrived for development camp on Wednesday with a new shorter style.

"I cut my hair on Tuesday," Liljegren said. "It's a new style, it feels good."

Liljegren is also healthier than he was a year ago. A difficult bout of mono disrupted his season and he did not get play a game until early November, spending time with four different teams in Sweden.

"It's nice to be healthy and be able to prepare for the season," Liljegren said. "Last year I had mono so it was a rough start. It feels good to be healthy. It's hard to tell (how much the illness affected where he got drafted). I was away for two months and I think I came back too early too so I had a rough month at the beginning. It's hard to tell but maybe a little bit."

Liljegren, 18, was projected to be a potential top-five pick prior to the 2016-17 season by Mark Seidel, chief scout for the North American Central Scouting service. The native of Kristianstad, Sweden, characterizes himself as a strong skater who first got on the ice when he was 4 years old, and an offensive type of defenseman who likes to carry the puck and make plays in the offensive zone.

Growing up in Sweden offered no shortage of fellow countrymen for Liljegren to model his game after. He idolized Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and now spends a lot of time studying the style of Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

"I liked Lidstrom for sure and tried to learn things from his game and I like to watch Erik Karlsson now in Ottawa," Liljegren said. "That's the type of player I want to be."

Last season, Liljegren spent time with four different teams in Sweden, Rogle BK, Rogle BK J18, Rogle BK J20 and Timra IK, and had the most success with Rogle BK J20 scoring seven points (five goals, two assists) in 12 regular season games and scoring five points (one goal, four assists) in three playoff games. This season, he is hoping to move around less and concentrate on his development with one team.

"I think that's what every player wants, to be on one team to develop," Liljegren said. "I think last year, it was good for me to go through that too but I'd like to play on one team for sure (this season)."

Although last season did not go as planned, Liljegren, who will be invited to Maple Leafs training camp in September, says he realistically needs another season to develop but then feels he will be able to contend for an NHL roster spot. His primary focus this season will be to improve his play in the defensive zone. Whether this season will be spent in Sweden or potentially the Ontario Hockey League or American Hockey League is still to be determined.

"I'm going to do my best this year obviously but I think one more year to develop," Liljegren said. "Where that is I'm not sure but I think one more year and then I want to try for the NHL."

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