Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs who use the summer as an opportunity to reassess their faith and momentarily slip away from the pain of the hockey world will likely be surprised by all the talk about William Nylander this fall when training camp finally opens.
Who is he and where did he come from?
The young centreman, as the truly faithful know, was selected 8th overall by the Leafs in the opening round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft. At 5-11 and 169 pounds, some people view him as a smaller version of Leafs legend Mats Sundin for their Swedish connection. Although originally born in Calgary, Nylander grew up in Stockholm and has spent time in both the North American and Swedish development systems. He won the World U-17 Hockey Challenge with Team Sweden in 2013, leading the tournament in assists (8).
Any real comparison to Sundin, however, is unfair to Nylander since he doesn’t carry the same physical presence as the Leafs’ former captain. The expectations of fans (and management) should keep this in mind.
Nylander has also spent some time in the Swedish Hockey League – the highest professional league in the country – playing for Modo Hockey. He recorded seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) and six penalty minutes across 22 games for the club.
While he’s not known for playing a very physical brand of hockey, Nylander is known for his offensive talents and provides the Leafs extra depth down the middle of the ice. He’ll likely need to add some weight and muscle before cracking the NHL, but this might be the one major obstacle holding him back. (Nazem Kadri had to pass the same obstacle.)
We’ll have to wait until training camp opens to see where the Leafs place him in terms of team’s depth chart. There’s the possibility they could move him to one of the wings since the team already has eight natural centremen in the lineup. However, there’s arguably a greater need for depth at centre on the team than anywhere else so I don’t see the Leafs in any rush to move him.
One final tidbit of information on Nylander: you may be aware of his father, Michael Nylander, who spent 15 seasons in the NHL.
That’s not bad, eh? Let’s hope the young Nylander is a chip off the old block.
What are your expectations for Nylander? Let us know in the comments section below.