"The Buffalo Sabres select ______ _____ from ___________."
Will new Sabres GM Jason Botterill be one of those guys who does the whole "We want to say hi to our fans watching from 716 Food and Sport back in Buffalo" or will he take after his predecessor and just announce the pick with a subdued look?
We will more than likely find out on June 23 at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago. The Sabres hold the eighth overall pick and assuming they don't make a trade, they have plenty of options with their first selection. As the draft rapidly approaches we'll look at some intriguing prospects for the Sabres and break down what they bring to the table. Buckle up, it's going to be a fun few weeks.
Defenseman, Rögle BK, Swedish Hockey League
6'0" - 192 pounds
A few months ago, Liljegren was the believed by plenty of scouts and analysts to be the best defenseman in this draft class. Then, things starting going down hill, when Liljegren was sidelined after contracting mononucleosis.
"It was a pretty tough season," Liljegren told reporters while in Buffalo for the NHL Scouting Combine. "You just try to go through it and I'm just looking forward to next season."
Despite the sickness, Liljegren managed to play in 19 games for Rögle BK of the Swedish Hockey League, scoring once and adding four assists. Not the production he would've liked -- but that's not going to stop him from trying to chip in offensively next year.
"I was a forward when I was younger so I think that's kind of why I stayed offensive," Liljegren said. "I'm an offensive defenseman, I like to skate with the puck and be in the offensive zone and move on the blue line and take shots."
Like fellow prospect Cale Makar, Liljegren's bread and butter is how he moves up and down the ice, and by many, he's believed to be one of the best skaters in this year's class. Not a surprise when you consider his favorite player is a fellow Swede, Erik Karlsson.
"I really like him as a defenseman, how he skates with the puck and that kind of stuff."
Ahh, don't we all?
At times, Liljegren jumps into plays that he shouldn't. It's a common mistake for an 18-year-old defenseman and a popular criticism for those still developing their game, but that's no reason to worry. When talking to reporters, Liljegren said he plans on returning to Sweden to continue to develop. After that, he wants to be on an NHL team.
"I think need to be more mature in my game. I play with a lot of high risks, I need to choose my plays more often."
If Liljegren is available with the eighth pick Botterill has an interesting decision to make. Yes, the Sabres desperately need defensive help, but they could [and should ] draft the best player available. If he happens to be both, then he should be the pick.
His falling draft stock reminds me a lot of Jakob Chychrun in the 2016 NHL Draft. Before the start of the 2016 season, Chychrun was believed to be the top defenseman in his draft class.
Come draft night, he fell to the second half of the first round, not hearing his name called until the Arizona Coyotes traded up to take him with the 16th pick. Early on, it appears he was worth the pick and should've been selected earlier, posting 20 points as an 18-year-old (he turned 19 at end of season) playing in the NHL.
At the end of the day, Liljegren is a mobile, two-way Swedish defenseman. Remind you of anyone? Will he be as good as Karlsson, Viktor Hedman or Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Probably not, but if he's half the player of any of them then he's worthy of the eighth overall pick.