Toronto Maple Leafs players that need to step up with Matthews injured

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Auston Matthews
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 10: Auston Matthews /
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toronto maple leafs
COLUMBUS, OH – DECEMBER 20: William Nylander /

William Nylander

Babcock has always been clear on what he expects from Nylander when he moves from the wing to centre. The 21-year-old has the offensive tools to be successful but defensively is where his head coach wants to see more attention paid.

"“Just play well without the puck,” Babcock said to the media, when asked what he’s looking for. “You’ve got to stop on defence, you’ve got to compete hard on the faceoff circle and you’ve got to do all the things right. Wingers — a prime example is scoring chances, which we chart all the time — is you can be average and still be fine. A centre’s got to be good every night. “They’ve got to play 200 feet and they’ve got to compete.”"

To help Nylander, Zach Hyman and Connor Brown will play on his line as two of the top defensive wingers on the team. Against the Bruins, Babcock will try to keep them away from Patrice Bergeron‘s line if possible.

With the pressure on Nylander without Matthews, it could be a good chance for the Toronto Maple Leafs to see if the young Swede can produce without his linemate. It is also an opportunity for him to audition for a centre job next season, with Tyler Bozak‘s uncertain future.

Given the team’s depth on the wing, it would not be the worst idea to see if Nylander can make the move to centre even though it would be tough to split him from Matthews.