The Toronto Maple Leafs have two truly talented defensive prospects in their system, but will either of them play in the NHL this season?
Liljegren, a right-handed shot defenceman with experience in the Swedish professional leagues, was once viewed as the second-best prospect that year.
A bad case of mono in his draft year saw his stock drop, allowing the Leafs to swoop in and claim him in the middle of the first round.
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Liljegren followed this up with one of the greatest rookie defenceman performances seen in the AHL, with a goal and 17 total points in 44 regular season games.
He made a further 20 appearances, with five assists, on route to the Toronto Marlies’ first-ever Calder Cup.
After the 2017-18 season, the Leafs doubled down on promising Swedish defenceman prospects, selecting Rasmus Sandin with the 29th overall pick.
Sandin came in with lower expectations than Liljegren, yet managed to completely eclipse his fellow countryman during his own rookie season.
The left-handed shot ended the regular season with six goals and 28 total points in 44 games, adding ten assists in 13 playoff games.
Liljegren, in his second season, played alongside Sandin regularly and registered three goals and 15 total points in 43 regular season games.
He added a further five assists in 13 playoff appearances.
The pair have worked well together under the guidance of Sheldon Keefe and could start the season as the Marlies’ top defensive pairing.
With the Leafs still having questions around the bottom end of their defensive corps, could the team’s young Swedes make their NHL debuts this season?
Many believe that Sandin may already be ready to make the jump up to the big league after just one season, whereas Liljegren, who hasn’t lived up to potentially unrealistic expectations, may need more time in the minors.
Keeping the pair together, however, might be in the organization’s best interests moving forward.
The pairing will get more minutes together with the Marlies and there is no need to rush either player into the NHL just yet.
If the team performs to the level they have over the past two seasons, there may be an opportunity to see how the young defenceman do in a few select games towards the end of the season.
This will give them more experience together in the minors before calling them up to experience life in the NHL.
If the team’s defence struggles early in the season, giving them both an opportunity may be a cost-effective solution as they both look to have promising futures in the game.
What do you think Leafs fans? Will either Sandin or Liljegren feature in the NHL this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!