Timothy Liljegren reads the play with the best of them
Photo credit: NHL

Is one young Leafs blueliner secretly elite? The underlying numbers suggest that he might be

Published January 7, 2024 at 8:48 PM
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY

Perhaps the most underrated player on the Toronto Maple Leafs right now is defenseman Timothy Liljegren. The soon-to-be 25-year-old is playing in his 5th season and has quietly impressed during a campaign where the defense has been under a microscope.

Drafted in the first round back in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Liljegren made the immediate jump to professional hockey playing for the Toronto Marlies in 2017-18, scoring 17 points in 44 games during his rookie season. The following 2 seasons, he scored 45 points in 83 games for the Marlies, including 30 points in just 40 games in 2019-20.

Liljegren made his NHL debut during that season but between 2019-20 and 2020-21, he only managed to suit up in 13 games for the Maple Leafs. However, after becoming a regular name in the lineup in 2021-22, Liljegren has been one of the best defensemen in the league and is a part of a select group of defensemen who have excelled with 2000+ minutes at 5v5, a 55+ GF%, and a 55+ xGF%.

The list only includes 10 names that range from Cale Makar, Charlie McAvoy, Jaccob Slavin, MacKenzie Weegar, and Liljegren, among a few others. His numbers are slightly better than those of Aaron Ekblad, Miro Heiskanen, and Chris Tanev, who missed the cut-off.


Liljegren's 2023-24 season might be the best of his young career to date as he has been on the ice for just eight goals against 5v5 in 20 games. Since last season, he is 7th in GA/60 among all defensemen who have played over 1000 minutes and he owns the lowest GA/60 of any Leafs defenseman this year after having the lowest GA/60 last year as well.

The points might not be there with regularity just yet, but he has 7 points through 20 games, is averaging a career-high 19:26 TOI, has become a mainstay on the back end and arguably owns one of the best value contracts in the league with a cap hit of just $1.4 million.


POLL
January 7   |   1277 answers
Is one young Leafs blueliner secretly elite? The underlying numbers suggest that he might be

Is Timothy Liljegren ready to be a full-time top-4 NHL defenseman?

Yes101079.1 %
No26720.9 %
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