I’m not making excuses for the Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander, because he simply doesn’t need any. So far this season, the Maple Leafs have played four games and have a 2-1-1 record.
In those two losses (one in overtime) the team faced exceedingly hot goalies. First, in a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, young goalie Anton Forsberg made a career-high 46 saves to beat the Maple Leafs. Most recently, the New York Rangers’ young goalie Igor Shesterkin stood on his head all game and faced 41 shots. He saved 40 of them.
Nylander is Leading His Team in Scoring
Odd thing, hockey. The Maple Leafs dominated both games but lost because they couldn’t score goals. That means that Nylander isn’t exactly lighting it up as either goal-scorer or an assist-generator either. Yet, he stands atop the Maple Leafs’ statistics sheet after four games with his total of two goals and two assists. That’s a point-a-game pace.
His first goal came in the team’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. His second goal came during the 3-2 loss to the Senators. His goal against the Canadiens was the game-winner. His goal against the Senators brought his team within one, but they couldn’t tie it up. Still, Nylander had six shots on the net during that game.
Nylander’s Playing Better This Season Than Any Other
Nylander’s arguably playing better during the 2021-22 season so far than he’s ever played before. Last season in 2020-21, Nylander scored 42 points in 51 games. In both 2016-17 and 2017-18, he scored 61 points both seasons. He’s going to beat those marks this season.
One reason Nylander will have a career season is that his head coach Sheldon Keefe is giving him ice time corresponding with his success. Keefe knows to play the hot hand, and Nylander is nothing but hot. As a result, he’s playing regularly for over 20 minutes per game.
Keefe is even giving Nylander extra shifts at the end of periods and after TV timeouts, and he’s playing him with both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But it isn’t to give Nylander a chance to get going, it’s to stimulate the other members of his top line.
Nylander Is Carrying the Offense
What’s so interesting is that Nylander doesn’t need to play with elite players to generate chances. He can carry the offense himself; in fact, he tends to wind up and carry the puck himself through the zone using deft stickhandling skills. He regularly winds up – sometimes looking like the great Connor McDavid – as he consistently speeds and dangles his way through opponents. First, he gets into the offensive zone; and, second, he creates high-percentage chances.
Nylander’s a constant threat to go all the way through the defense or beat them on clear breakaways, both during the power play and even five-on-five. How many times has he rung one off the crossbar?
What Does Nylander Need to Beat His Own Records?
Nylander needs two things to go his way if he’s to beat his personal career records. First, he needs to continue to play the same way he’s playing. Second, he needs to keep getting the ice time that his first-line teammates have gotten for at least three seasons, but he has not.
If he does, he’ll break all his career highs. He’ll also help his team win both during the regular season and during the postseason. Finally, he’ll get those fans off his back – and shockingly there are still some – who are continually calling for him to be traded.
My prediction? Nylander will average a point-a-game this season and will become known as one of the Maple Leafs’ best players in a long time. By the way, his style will also endear him to the fans.
/ 20 hours ago
Carey Price said he won't give up on plans to return next season but...
/ 3 days ago
The fact that Jack Eichel still has not tasted the Stanley Cup Playoffs is just one...
/ 6 days ago
Alex Ovechkin sustained an upper-body injury on Sunday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs and...
/ 1 week ago
The Edmonton Oilers are going to have to pay to keep Evander Kane who...
/ 2 weeks ago
A Cole Caufield video has gone viral where he shows off his acting chops...
/ 3 weeks ago
If the Oilers are going to try and keep all of Evander Kane, Jesse...
/ 3 weeks ago
According to Sid Seixerio, Auston Matthews is clearly going to be the Hart Trophy...
/ 3 weeks ago
The San Jose Sharks have announced that general manager Doug Wilson will step down...
/ 4 weeks ago
In a Chicago Blackhawks news and rumors update, there is talk about an extension...
/ 4 weeks ago
Ryan Getzlaf is retiring from the NHL at the end of the season and...