Timothy Liljegren has made it known, according to NHL.com, that he believes he needs one more year of development before taking a realistic run at cracking the Maple Leafs roster.
Where he plays next season, he also admitted, still remains to be seen.
The Maple Leafs selected Liljegren, the Swedish defenseman, with the 17th overall selection last month.
He played 19 games for Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League, with one goal and five points. Returning to Sweden and Rogle BK appears to be the most likely option at this point.
The Niagara Ice Dogs own Liljegren’s major junior rights, but his agent has already said he won’t play there. It sounds like he’ll play in Europe, specifically Sweden, where he has one more year left on his contract with Rogle BK, but sometimes other arrangements can be made.
“He has a valid contract for one more year in the SHL (Swedish Hockey League),” said Liljegren’s agent, Peter Wallen. “The Leafs have not offered him a contract. I think they want to see what he’s like in development camp and go from there.
“If they like what they see, maybe they will make an offer.”
For Liljegren to play somewhere other than Rogle this season, the Leafs would have to secure his release through the agreements the NHL has with the Swedish federation and the International Ice Hockey Federation.
Known for his skating ability, the start of Liljegren’s 2016-17 season was disrupted by a bout with mononucleosis, which certainly didn’t help his draft stock early on.
“We all have setbacks, but this has been the biggest one in my career,” he said prior to the draft, per Sportsnet. “I still think I handled it well and kept calm in spite of what happened…I know I was high on the draft rankings before the season started, but I had to reconsider my expectations after a serious illness like that.”
He fell dramatically in TSN’s final draft rankings and ended up going to the Maple Leafs just beyond the midway point of the first round — a fact Toronto seems just fine with.
“When he fell that far, it was a no-brainer,” Leafs assistant general manager Mark Hunter told Sportsnet.