In part I of our
breakdown we took a look at Liljegren’s decision-making coming out of his zone
and his defensive coverage. In part II we will now tackle his skating, transitions and offensive blueline play, which are some of the stronger points in his game.
SKATING AND TRANSITION
One of the assets in
Liljegren’s arsenal is obviously his skating. Liljegren uses his skating to be
a factor all over the ice and combines it with quality puck-handling when
moving the puck forward as well as when trying to pull off 1 on 1 moves. He can
also use his skating in defensive situations, which is where we’ll start off part II of our breakdown.
Example 1 shows off
Liljegren’s ability to quickly recover backwards and close gaps down in a hurry
if/when necessary. We can see Liljegren starting on the offensive blueline
facing forward, yet he manages to retreat backwards and recovers towards the
middle of ice in time to close down the play. More impressively, a forward pass
was made by opposition in frame II, but Liljegren still managed to catch up to
the play with his skating. To top it all off, in the last frame, he is already
positioned for a D-to-D pass, opening himself up as an option for his partner.
In example 2 we have a
similar sequence. In frame II, Liljegren decides to pinch up the wall in the
offensive zone, however a pass by the opposition is made that starts a quick
transition up the ice the other way. Through frames III to V, we see Liljegren
catching up to the play. In frame VI he catches the opposition, forcing a pass
to the wall. Liljegren then obtains a good position against the forward who
received the puck and closes him down against the wall. While you don’t want to
see defensemen in position to chase the play, it is certainly a positive that
Liljegren manages to execute these recoveries at a high level.
This sequence is another
example that shows off Liljegren’s recovery speed from the offensive blueline.
In frame 2 he is skating backwards against the USA forward who is already
positioned to explode forward up the ice. Despite having to turn, by comparing
frame I and frame III, we can see that Liljegren does not really lose any of
the initial gap between him and the USA forward. He ends up easily collecting
the puck, skating it around the net and completing a pass.
With example 4 we start
turning towards more offensive aspects of Liljegren’s game. Here we see
Liljegren receiving a pass in neutral zone, entering the offensive zone with
speed before he pulls off a 1 on 1 move that he finishes with a quick
wrist-shot. As we will see going forward, Liljegren’s wrist-shot is one of his
better weapons. While the goalie in this example does a good job directing the
rebound to the side, Liljegren’s shots generally tend to generate juicy
rebounds for his team to capitalize on.
This sequence shows off
Liljegren’s skating and puck-handling. Liljegren has the ability to quickly
gain a large amount of ice by exploding forward and handling the puck through
space. That said, he is still learning the limits to what he can do at a
pro-level. Here, he tries to skate the puck all the way from defensive zone
into the offensive zone by himself. He tries to power through the opposition in
frame VI and almost succeeds however the opposing player manages to poke the
puck just enough to slow it down and put Liljegren offside.
In example 6 we have
Liljegren again easily moving across large chunks of open ice, losing his
backcheck in the process. Similarly as before, he runs into opposition at the
offensive blueline and can not establish control as he is surrounded by several
Czech players. Interestingly, Liljegren ends up being F1 as a byproduct of the
play he attempted with the puck and doesn’t hesitate going on with the
This example focuses more closely on what we’ve seen from Liljegren on occasion: he will at times end up in the play almost as if he were forward, even when he doesn’t have the puck. Through the
first two frames we see him bring the puck up ice. In frame III he just passed
the puck to his teammate, who however struggles to control it. We can’t know if
Liljegren would have avoided going offside otherwise, but either way, what we
see from frame IV to V is he didn’t recognize immediately the risk of a
turnover and took a couple of more strides forward,
as if he wasn’t a defenseman. In
frame V Liljegren is heading back trying to catch up to the play, as he is
the Swedish player who is furthest up the ice while the puck and the play are already going the opposite direction. It’s too late at that point and the play
results in a scoring chance for Finland.
Example 8 shows Liljegren moving through a maze of bodies over the offensive blueline, which
is in line with what we’ve shown so far. His skating ability and hands allow
him to successfully gain space forward, however he will have to learn how to
utilize those tools to consistently establish positive outcomes. Here he
manages to go through everyone except for one Czech player and finishes the
play with a backhand shot.
Liljegren’s skating, hands and shot allow him to be a dangerous weapon from the
offensive blueline both at even strength as well as on power-play. Despite his
age, he was already used as a PP option at SHL level in our viewings and did
Example 1 is a
continuation of what we’ve seen before. This time, Liljegren attacks from the
offensive blueline and cuts in deep into offensive zone, successfully pulling
off a 1 on 1 move, making the room for his dangerous wrist-shot.
Example 2 shows off
Liljegren’s offensive blueline game on PP. Liljegren walks the blueline
laterally with ease and poses a double threat both with his shot as well as the
ability to pass. In frames I-II we see him walking the blueline backwards, down from the left side towards the middle
before opting for a pass. In frame III he comes up the blueline from the right
side showing the potential to release a shot which the player in front of him
has to respect, before again opting for a pass. In frame V, we see Liljegren
load up for a one timer which winds up generating a rebound. Liljegren
possesses both a quality slapshot (that he releases as a one-timer with ease)
as well as a dangerous wristshot. In frame VI he starts walking down from the left side
looking for a lane to let his wristshot go, which he does in frame VIII. As we
see in the last frame, it again generates a dangerous rebound, which tends to
be the case more often than not with Liljegren shooting.
Example 3 just reiterates
what we’ve seen before. Liljegren starts by walking the blueline before making
a pass to the wall, then looks to get open for his shot. When the puck gets
passed back to him, he releases a one-timer in frame IV which generates yet
another big rebound. Later in the same sequence we see Liljegren get the puck
in frame VI, where he uses his lateral mobility to open up a lane while handling the
puck and finds his teammate with a dangerous pass, displaying the fact that he
is an offensive threat both as a shooter as well as a playmaker.
This sequence shows off a
classic weapon of Liljegren. He receives the puck and shows off his ability to
quickly move across the blueline while finding room for his shot.
At the start of this PP sequence, Liljegren
goes digging for a puck deep into the offensive zone. He successfully retrieves
the puck but as soon as he tries to move back with it he gets pressured by the
second Russian forward who anticipates the chance for a turnover. However, Liljegren
instantly recognizes the ensuing hole in the defensive coverage and exploits it
with a quick no-look pass to the other side, from where his open teammate can
set up a nice goal. This is an example of how putting pressure on him on the PP
can backfire as a result of his dynamism and playmaking ability.
In this second part of our
breakdown we put the focus on some qualities of Liljegren that make him a
unique prospect in this year’s class from Europe. Despite the fine-tuning still
needed to make the most of them, especially at the next level, there is no question Liljegren’s tools give him the chance to become a high-end defenseman.
We hope our extensive
breakdown answers the questions we’ve been asked, explaining why we had him
lower than others in September and why assessing his ranking may currently be