William Nylander, Coming in Hot

    Hey, don’t forget about William Nylander.

    Last year, Nylander received a lot of attention. He was arguable to most dominant player in the AHL the first half of the year and he led the march of young Leafs prospects dipping their feet into NHL waters. At the time, the spotlight was on Nylander. He was the best prospect we had in recent memory and Maple Leafs fans had a reason to tune in and watch their team for the first time in a long time.

    Move forward half a year.

    Coming into the 2016/2017 season, a lot of the discussion was, rightfully so, on the 1st overall pick Auston Matthews.  He was the Maple Leafs first number #1 draft pick since Wendel Clark, he was dominant in the World Cup of Hockey and represented a turning point in the decade of disappointing that preceded him. Following the Matthews headlines was the progress of Mitch Marner. His performance in training camp and in the first few games of the year quickly vaulted him to the top of Maple Leafs discussions, showing he was ready to stay with the team for good. All of a sudden, for some reason, Nylander was flying under the radar.

    Well, Nylander has quickly managed to steal back some of the spotlight from his rookie counter parts. His performance early in the year has reminded all Maple Leafs fans that for a while, he was our most highly touted prospect. Early on at least, he seems determined to make that Calder trophy competition a Leafs affair.

     

    Game 1 @ Ottawa (OTL 5-4)

    Goals Assists Shots TOI
    0 2 3 16:29

    Well, this was Auston Matthews show.

    Obviously, the first overall pick putting up 4 goals in his first ever NHL game is going to dominate headlines. Let’s not try and say Nylander was the best player on the ice or anything. He did, however, quietly put together a very good game,  highlighted by some nice passing including one on Auston Matthews fourth goal.

    via GIPHY

    Game 3 @ Winnipeg (OTL 5-4)

    Goals Assist Shots TOI
    1 1 3 16:30
    Nylander showed the quick strike offence he can provide. Nylander buried a beautiful Matthews pass with a perfectly placed wrist shot, 8 seconds later he set up Kadri for a tap in goal.

    via GIPHY

    via GIPHY

    Game 5 @ Chicago (OTL 5-4)

    Goals Assist Shots TOI
    2 0 7 14:16
    This may have been Nylander’s most dominant performance so far. He was dynamic all night and showed off how impressive he is at high speeds with the puck.

    via GIPHY

    Look familiar?
    That cross-ice Matthews to Nylander play is starting to look like a pretty nice dejavu for Maple Leafs fans.

    Game 8 @ Montreal (L 2-1)

    Goals Assist Shots TOI
    0 1 3 16:53

    This was one hell of a hockey game.

    Besides Carey Price, William Nylander was the most noticeable player on the ice. He was in on most of the Leafs key scoring chances, including a breakaway where he stripped the puck from the defender. He set up the team’s only goal on the powerplay, where he has been dangerous on the right hand side all year.

    via GIPHY

     Overall

    Points P/60 Shots Corsi%
    11  4.79 31  57%
    There are a few things in William Nylander’s game that have stood out to me so far.

    1. His shot. Pretty obvious that he has an elite wrist shot. He has shown it off a few times on the powerplay and has the ability to score once he gets inside the top of the circle. It’s pretty lethal, especially with his vision to find the open player.

    We only had to see his 1st NHL goal last year to realize he can bury when given the chance.

    via GIPHY

    2. Skating with the puck. We all knew that Nylander could fly, but his ability to gain speed with the puck to enter zones or pull away from defenders is pretty rare.

    via GIPHY

    3. His edges. The guy can turn on a dime. Once he gets in the zone, he seems to be able to lose defenders with one quick curl behind the net.

    The fact is, William Nylander is transitioning from an elite prospect to an elite player. His abilities make him a joy to watch on a nightly basis and Leafs fans should not be surprised if he leads the charge of Maple Leafs rookies for the rest of the year.

     

    Featured Image: William Nylander (Wikipedia)