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Maple Leafs’ Nylander Isn’t Just Lucky: He’s Really Good!

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander is often accused of being lucky. Why is luck not the answer to his success? What makes him good?

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander is a really good hockey player. However, sometimes Nylander isn’t given the credit he deserves.

Ian Tulloch of Maple Leafs’ Hot Stove made a really good point in his post today. He noted that hockey analysts use the phrase the “puck is following him around,” when they speak about Nylander’s play. It’s as if his success this season can be attributed to “puck luck.” It ain’t so.

Of course, hockey analysts used to say that about Wayne Gretzky as well, and we know that isn’t accurate. Obviously, Nylander isn’t anywhere near the skillset or tenacity of Gretzky, and he plays a different game. 

Related: Three Takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 4-1 Win Over the Sharks

Nylander Carries the Puck a Bit Like Connor McDavid

In some ways, Nylander has some of the similar qualities as Connor McDavid, except that he doesn’t handle the puck in traffic nearly as well as McDavid. Few do. McDavid’s in a class by himself.

I have to say that, although I know that the puck moves more quickly by passing than skating, some of my favorite Nylander plays are when he winds up in his own defensive zone at even strength. You can just see it coming. He then proceeds to carry the puck to the opponent’s net, which could be as far as 150 feet away. 

There are times when Nylander can simply dominate opponents at even strength. He’s often at his best when he’s the one carrying it up the ice, breaking down the defense, and generating shot after shot on the net. As Tulloch notes, Nylander produces shots on goal at an elite rate. 

And, Nylander’s been doing it all season. On Friday against the Sharks, he had a game-high eight shots on the net.

Against the San Jose Sharks, Nylander Got Things Going Early

In Friday night’s game, Nylander also scored two points and helped the Maple Leafs win by a 4-1 victory score over the San Jose Sharks. He started early and opened the scoring just 32 seconds into the game.

The goal originated on a nice pass from Morgan Rielly. John Tavares then didn’t try to play the pass from Rielly but tipped it to a space. There Nylander picked it up and took it to the net.

William Nylander, Maple Leafs (Upper Deck Cards)

Halfway through the second period, Nylander threw a shot on the net that Tavares collected to score his own power-play goal. Nylander got the primary assist on that goal. Nylander has three points in the last two games, and now has totaled 19 points and 78 shots in his 22 games played this season. 

Nylander Is Ranked High in NHL Shots Generated and Scoring Changes

That 78-shots total is good enough to rank fifth in the NHL. Nylander’s also second in the NHL in scoring chances. He also leads all Maple Leafs’ forwards in five-on-five impact. 

That’s not because the puck is following Nylander around, it’s because he’s moving it where he wants it to go. As I say; he’s good.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Ondrej Kase’s Only Hockey Critic? His Mom!

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. gfinale

    November 28, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Nylander is doing well this year but the most amazing thing about that play was that Tavares not only made a great tip but purposely fakes that he still had the puck in bringing around his stick and the opposition therefore went for him, buying Nylander lots of space to the net alone.

  2. gfinale

    November 28, 2021 at 10:44 am

    Here is my take on Nylander. He slacked off before his contract was finally signed then suitably had a poor rest of the season. He then had something to prove so worked hard in the off-season to be ready. So then he had a good next season. He no longer needed to prove anything so he slacked off in the off-season after that. Not surprisingly, the next season he didn’t do too well. He then had something to prove again so he worked hard this past off-season and here he is doing well again. Beyond Nylander’s natural tendency to be lazy and disengaged, you can readily see that Nylander plays harder and is more aggressive when he works hard in the off-season. Nobody knows what we’ll get next season and beyond with Nylander, considering his past.

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