Three Toronto Maple Leafs defence prospects — Timothy Liljegren, JD Greenway and Eemeli Rasanen — were in action at the 2017 World Junior Showcase on Wednesday.


Canada 6 vs. Finland 5

Eemeli Rasanen played on Finland’s bottom pairing with Boston Bruins 2017 first round pick, Urho Vaakanainen. Rasanen’s standout trait is obviously his size — listed at 6’7” and 209 pounds — and he was able to dish out some vicious contact, including a solid hit on a Canadian player early in the first.

A bouncing puck in front of the net ricocheted off Rasanen’s skate for Canada’s first goal, but he managed to recover from the unfortunate start. He did not see a ton of ice time, but he managed to play a solid, simple game and used his size and long reach to break up some plays. He was not overly noticeable this game, but that is not necessarily a bad thing for a defenceman in his role. Finland’s defense for the upcoming World Juniors will be a highly difficult group to crack, but Rasanen has been holding his own at the World Junior Summer Showcase and would bring an element of size to Finland’s blue line.

USA 3 vs. Sweden 2

With both Erik Brannstrom and Rasmus Dahlin out, Timothy Liljegren was front and center on Sweden’s blue line, playing on Sweden’s top pairing again with Linus Hogberg, the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2016 fifth round pick. The game started off a little rocky with a turnover that nearly led to a USA goal, but he quickly found his groove and showed why he was so highly rated at the start of last season. He showed great poise and was silky smooth when lugging the puck up the ice; his transition game was on point throughout the 60 minutes, exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive zone with a great deal of poise. Liljegren also put five shots on goal this game, which was tied with Oskar Steen for the most on Team Sweden.

A common knock with Liljegren has been his tendency to do too much with the puck — and there were a couple of times throughout the game where he was a little too fancy — but overall he made much smarter decisions with the puck. He didn’t record a point, but this was an impressive performance from Liljegren as he looks to crack the Team Sweden WJC roster for the first time following the snub in 2016.

The story was different for JD Greenway, who played on USA’s bottom pairing along with Oilers’ 2017 seventh round pick, Phil Kemp. Greenway is another big-bodied defenseman in the Leafs system — 6’5”, 210 pounds — and he was able to use that large frame to box out players as well as his long reach to break up some plays defensively. However, his tendency to get caught flat-footed saw him get beat by speedier Swedish players throughout the game, which was the reason he found himself in the penalty box three times. His puck handling was also questionable throughout the game; it looked as if he was uncomfortable possession and didn’t want the puck on his stick. It was obvious from watching Greenway play this game that he will be a project player; he has great size and shows some flashes of skill, but there are still many parts of his game that need work.