It’s uncertain what happens with the AHL season but hopefully, Liljegren is using the time to continue his training.
Like his Swedish counterpart, Liljegren is a crucial part of the Leafs’ future and he got a chance to experience what life is like in the NHL when he got to dress in 11 games with the Leafs. Now, the challenge for the 20-year-old is working on the skills that will make him a dependable option at some point.
While I mentioned how Sandin is the most important prospect in the system, Robertson and Liljegren don’t fall too far behind. Robertson will be important to add some necessary scoring and Liljegren will be a body for the right side that would ease the need to make an expensive trade or signing.
Unfortunately for Liljegren, he has been playing catchup since being selected with the 17th overall pick in 2017. Missing a year with mononucleosis, he had to be eased into his rookie season but being on a contending Toronto Marlies club ultimately was the best type of development as assistant general manager Laurence Gilman points out.
"“He had played seven playoff rounds in two years. It is very difficult to replicate that,” Gilman told the Toronto Star. “That is the best type of development any young hockey player can have.”"
The Leafs have not been shy about putting Liljegren in situations where he has to be the go-to defenceman but it’s also important to remember that it takes time for that to translate to the NHL level. A big challenge for him will be to try and adjust to defending bigger players especially in front of the net as that was an issue for him at times.
Next season, Liljegren will probably be given every chance to make a serious push for a spot out of training camp since it seems unlikely to expect Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie to return.