Leafs Select William Nylander with 8th Overall Pick

Oh, the Leafs don’t draft skill? About that…

With the 8th overall pick, the Leafs went all in on the ultra-skilled center William Nylander out of MODO of the Swedish Hockey League. Son of Michael, the young Nylander is an offensive force, and absolutely tore up the international circuit with 12 goals and 25 points in only 14 games for Sweden’s U-18 squad.

TLN’s very own Bobby Cappucino wrote an excellent profile on Nylander just days ago. Read it here.

With the “big three” centers off the board in Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, and Leon Draisaitl, the Leafs might still have their future number one center. 

Perhaps more surprising that Nylander was still available at 8 is that the Leafs passed over the likes of Nick Ritchie to take him. Some would consider that progress, as many were sure that the Leafs would prefer size to skill, but don’t expect Nonis and Co. to get any credit.

One of the more interesting wrinkles in the Leafs’ selection of Nylander is that, since his SHL contract is up, he’s free to cross the pond and play for the Toronto Marlies immediately. It looks as if Nylander will, quite literally, develop before Leafs’ fans’ eyes.

Update: A very pro Instagram courtesy of Steve Dangle.

Stay tuned to TLN for complete 2014 NHL Draft coverage.

  • Alex

    Nonis drafted a small, euro player instead of Tyler Biggs 2.0. I’m starting to think Burke screwed up this franchise with his fetish for soup cans and face punchers.

    • CMpuck

      Drafting our best player in Rielly, trading a soup can in Schenn for JVR, a soup can in Beauchemin for Lupul and Gardiner….

      Oh yeah, Biggs, because every other GM drafts a superstar with all their 1st round picks…

      Burke’s team just drafted that stiff Bennett and Monahan last year..

      • CMpuck

        Um… Phil Kessel wasn’t drafted by the Leafs. Phil Kessel is our best player. Both in metrics, old school stats and the eye test.

        I’m not sure also how you’d say Beauchemin was a soup can, considering that he was a top 4 defender and didn’t play poorly while here. He just happened to be surrounded by a not good cast. (Defensemen who played in 15 or more games with TO ’09-’10: Beauch (82 GP), Kaberle (82 GP), Schenn (79 GP), White (To Calgary 56 GP for TO), Exelby (51 GP?!?!?), Gunnarsson (43 GP), Finger (39 GP), Komisarek (34 GP), Phanuef (From Calgary; 26 GP) and Jay Rosehill (15 GP) {Source: Hockeydb.com}) His only full year in Toronto, the team went 30-38-0-14. Second leading scorer that year behind Philbert J. Kessel? Nik Hagman with 20 before we traded him as part of the Phanuef deal.

        Burke also drafted Kadri, and went way off the board with Biggs, showing both good and poor decision making.

        I think your comment about being “butthurt” about Clarkson speaks more to the fact that we spent a large part of our resource pool on a player that most fans who look at the games as they are played and analytic statistics felt Clarkson was an overvalued player who received a disproportionate amount of his teams offense. A great example of this in action is Jason Blake circa ’06-’07. At 32, he scored 40 goals and the Leafs signed him for a 5 year/$20million deal. They didn’t look at the prevailing circumstances and factor in age and it set them back. Couple that with the fact that he took up then 8% of the salary cap in ’07-’08, you can understand why we might be a little “butthurt” over repeating the same mistake again 8 years later. Don’t sign free agents for big money.

        Curious though, what makes you think Ritchie is the steal of the draft? Do you think he’ll be a better NHL Pro than others who were selected higher?

        Why do you think Mayson Raymond is resigning? Do you rate MayRay as a Top 6 forward in the NHL?

        Do you think Nylander will play in the NHL next year or do you think he’ll play in the AHL or back in Sweden? (I don’t think he’s ready for the NHL personally, as most 18 year old young adults aren’t)

        Do you consider Kessel and JVR to be “soft” and why? Who and where would you add a player to help lift the “soft” moniker?

        I’m just trying to show how as a Toronto Maple Leaf fan, there may be some questions of the decision making of this team. I’m guessing you feel the collapse at the end of the year was based more on the players versus scheme and personal utilization. If that’s the case and you faithfully believe that it was the players, okay. I’d point to statistics and many nights watching this team and give you a different view.

        The most damning thing about being a Leafs fan at this moment is the trust that the GM in place has been eroded with the signing of free agents, cap mismanagement, admission that they don’t use the analytic budget every year (“We’re constantly trying to find solid uses for [our analytics budget],” Nonis said. “The last six, seven years, we’ve had a significant dollar amount in our budget for analytics and most of those years we didn’t use it. We couldn’t find a system or a group we felt we could rely on to help us make reasonable decisions. People run with these stats like they’re something we should pay attention to and make decisions on, and as of right now, very few of them are worth anything to us,” Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2014/05/05/what-the-maple-leafs-and-blackhawks-tell-us-about-advanced-analytics-in-the-nhl/) and extensions of the current coaching staff.

        They don’t always draft giant guys, they don’t always draft skill. I have faith the guys they draft try their damndest for the Blue and White, I just don’t have blind faith the guys choosing the players are choosing the right guys all the time.

        Thanks for the time reading this!

          • I apologize if you thought my questions were sarcastic in my reply. They were honest. I was just curious your thoughts and if you could expand on what you thought in regards to softness of the team and what you’d add if you were the GM (ie: a player or the role they’d play on the team if you were constructing it).

            I wasn’t trying to stir up an argument, I just felt that Kessel is our best player, Frankie B wasn’t a soupcan and was wondering if you could provide clarification. I tried to point out where my rationale came from for my thoughts.

            So, if I could ask once again:

            What makes you think Ritchie is the steal of the draft? Do you think he’ll be a better NHL Pro than others who were selected higher?

            Why do you think Mayson Raymond is resigning? Do you rate MayRay as a Top 6 forward in the NHL?

            Do you think Nylander will play in the NHL next year or do you think he’ll play in the AHL or back in Sweden? (I don’t think he’s ready for the NHL personally, as most 18 year old young adults aren’t)

            Do you consider Kessel and JVR to be “soft” and why? Who and where would you add a player to help lift the “soft” moniker?

            They were just honest questions that came from your post. Sorry if I upset you. :-/

          • Let’s be honest, a lot of reactionary Leaf fans have been burying Ritchie for months leading into the draft because of Tyler Biggs busting, that they’re not excited about Gauthier and Clarkson being a terrible signing. That chip on the shoulder made a target out of Ritchie because he’ll certainly just be one of those ‘grit’ ‘truculent’ Burke like plugs. That is the sentiment, are you going to deny that feeling exists?

            This completely misses the point that Ritchie isn’t a late 1st round pick, scouts had him as 6, he put up great numbers on a bad Petes team. I like his ceiling (top six power forward) better than Nylander’s ceiling (small skill C/RW). I like the kid that is already 230lbs. Look up forwards in the league, not a lot guys who can play top six and are over 205. Ritchie has the potential to be an elite power forward, Caryle ideally would have his pteam play strong forecheck, I’d rather see the Leafs become more Boston Bruin like in having some power wingers. Personally I would have taken the guy at six.

            Beachemin was God awful in Toronto, people lamented his signing along with Komisarek’s.

            Dreger reported that the Leafs were likely to re-up Raymond for three years. Raymond is a good top nine skill player, filling the role of MacAuthur just fine.

            No rush for Nylander… I’d imagine he’s about five years away from being ready to make an impact by that time I’d expect Rielly to be a better talent than Kessel.

            I’m not against skill, you need a mix of toughness and size though. JVR doesn’t hurt but he’s not overly physical, he’s a great hybrid of size and skill. Kessel is a top five skill production player IMO, I’d like to see pieces to support that skill set, not being redundant and having more soft skill players.

            I’ll put it this way, JVR/Bozak/Kessel is fine, I’d rather a Ritchie or hell make a deal for an E.Kane in the second line, get that player to fill the role management slotted for Clarkson and push Clarkson to the third line where he can find his game again.

            Nylander is a fine pick, not bashing him but role does he play in getting this roster to progress? Pushing out Kadri? Exchanging
            Bishops while we still needed a Rook is a lateral move IMO, Ritchie could have been that Rook.

          • I totally agree that many Leafs fans have been reactionary in regards to the perception of Ritchie being another “Burke” (big, truculent, lack of skill in exchange for size) type. I think many Leaf fans also are silly for comparing Clarkson and Biggs. To me, Clarkson was at best, Nikky K, jack of all trades, maximized his offensive output as the system he played was defensively sound. Biggs is more of a larger shutdown player who could be a really good 3rd/4th line player. As you said in an earlier response, not every 1st rounder is a superstar. If you get a good 3rd liner who accepts what he is and builds on it, great.

            I think we disagree with the way the team should be constructed, but I do think you’re not wrong on Ritchie, I just don’t value that potential as much as a the skill other players show, like Nylander. I think a more skilled C would allow JVR to be able to play a more physical role and open spaces for Kessel to move into more frequently. While I think Ritchie is more a Carlyle player, I don’t think Carlyle will be here by the time this draft pick will be in the NHL.

            Beauchemin was bad enough to get us Jake Gardiner. He was overused by a coaching staff that was stuck playing Garnet Exelby and Jeff Finger. Miscast in a way that Dion has been here in my opinion. I am glad that Anaheim valued him to give up the assets they did. I think we both can agree on that.

            On MayRay: If his AAV is more than MacArthur, I’d point out that he’s not as good at possession as CMac. God, we will have run the best second line three years ago out of town for nothing. If he signs a cap friendly deal, great. I think he is at best a bottom end forward with speed and some skill. I worry about speed going away with his age. If he’s on our second line next year, I think that’s too much for him.

            I’d love a deal for Evander Kane too, but I don’t think we have the assets to trade for him. Its too bad, I think he would benefit from a change of scenery and to not have to be the franchise hope.

            I think Nylander should be in the league in three years as a sheltered third/fourth line center on a kid line with younger wingers that plays 8-10 minutes a night against the other team bottom forwards. I think whomever on that line shows potential, they should be moved up either piecemeal or as a line as their ability to play well at this higher level evolves. Ideally, he’d be a top 3/top 6 player by 23. Its a stretch, but in limited interviews he seems to not lack confidence.

            I don’t think Nylander has to push out Kadri as Bozak has 4 years left and we could let him walk/move down the roster at that point and slide Kadri and Nylander as the top 2 centers. Nylander might push Holland out though.

            I think the Leafs have 6 forwards of a top 9 (seven with Raymond) but only 4 of a top 6. The bigger concern is who out of Lupul, Raymond, Clarkson, ???, and ??? steps up to fill the second line winger roles all year.

            Thanks for answering! Hopefully I got all your questions answered. While we might not agree with the way the Leafs should go, we do agree that we’d like it better if they won, no matter how they do it. 🙂

        • Well I guess I too would not have spent the analytic budget since I too believe that only analytics do not tell the whole story. Your comment about not having blind faith in guys that do not choose the right players all the time is one that could be said about any management team in the NHL on draft day. I do agree with you when the comment came up that Ritchie was the steal of the draft, in using your analytic research he was not as good 5 on 5 as some of the other top first round picks. May be on Clarkson we have to give him a mulligan on last year, it was the first year of a big contract and being the team player he is he wanted to show his value and probably(no didn’t) play his game. It might also be that he was, and to your point slotted in the right situations.

          • I think that even if I thought analysis of deeper statistics didn’t tell the whole story, I’d still utilize the budgeted money, unless I thought they told me absolutely nothing of value.

            If you feel they provide nothing of value, then I’d be curious why that is? I think when armed with statistics like Corsi, coupled with the ability and understanding of the game (ie: eye test), you discover that there is a small correlation between who you think are the best players and who ranks high in various statistics, both countable (goals, shots) and discoverable (Corsi Rel, etc). Is there a component of “grit” that isn’t measurable? Yes, but that’s where the eye test comes in as well to make you ask questions to delve deeper.

            Often during a year, I’ll ask myself a question like, “hey, I wonder why player X is playing there and those minutes”. I look up all the information I can and discover maybe he has a deficiency that can be quantified. I’m disheartened to know that the team I support doesn’t utilize any money to have someone dedicated to tracking, looking up, researching and developing new statistical ways to track and find advantages to maximizing their money spent on players. The budget for player salaries is fixated every year by an outside source. As a hockey club, if they do not maximize every dollar spent in that budget set by an outside group then they are doing a disservice to themselves.

            I think that clubs like Boston, Detroit, Chicago and LA have a perception of drafting better, making smarter free agent decisions and people do have blind faith in their management structures and philosophies. The results long term and short term are where that respect comes from.

            Ritchie may be the steal of the draft, but at 8, would he have been the same steal or is Nylander more the steal at 9 or 10? Its not an argument that can be answered, I know, but I also think that they both fell about the same distance from where was expected.

            I think Clarkson will be better next year (15 goals would be expectation), but I think signing him to 7.3% of the budget for players next year is where the backlash comes from. He needs to score 19 goals for a team that scores 250 goals to balance that out. Doable? Yes. I’d not want to bet my life on it though. If the salary cap continues to go up, then this deal wasn’t as bad, except it doesn’t end until 2020.

            Decisions like Clarkson, cutting Grabbo for nothing, letting Kulemin walk for nothing, forcing MacArthur out, and signing guys like Colton Orr to deals that cause you to go against and over the salary cap are why they should spend all of the budget for every avenue of stats to have more information available. The Maple Leafs have no budget fixation in statistics, scouting and development of players from the league. They do however have a budget enforced on player salaries. I’d rather they be perceived to waste the budget we control than proven to waste the budget we don’t.

  • CMpuck

    I don’t get it, was Kadri not a skill player? Rielly? The Leafs don’t draft skill? That’s myopic thinking simply because we draft Gauthier last year or is everyone still butthurt over Clarkson.

    Also just because Ritchie is big doesn’t mean he lacks skill. Ritchie is the steal of this draft. That said, Nylander could be a homerun, happy with him adding C depth to the organization.

    Kadri, Nyalnder, Kessel, Lupul, Raymond (likely resigning), JVR, Rielly, Gardiner…. who isn’t a skill player that matters in this roster? Phaneuf? He’s being run out of town.

    Leafs are a bit too soft.

  • CMpuck

    I don’t get it, was Kadri not a skill player? Rielly? The Leafs don’t draft skill? That’s myopic thinking simply because we draft Gauthier last year or is everyone still butthurt over Clarkson.

    Also just because Ritchie is big doesn’t mean he lacks skill. Ritchie is the steal of this draft. That said, Nylander could be a homerun, happy with him adding C depth to the organization.

    Kadri, Nyalnder, Kessel, Lupul, Raymond (likely resigning), JVR, Rielly, Gardiner…. who isn’t a skill player that matters in this roster? Phaneuf? He’s being run out of town.

    Leafs are a bit too soft.

  • CMpuck

    Coming from a Flyers fan… This guy is going to be unreal. I saw him play in my town this spring in under 18 yo championships – he was dominant.

    He is going to replace Bozie and become the #1 centerman, no matter what. A GREAT move by Nonis.

  • FlareKnight

    I have to say this pick really surprised me and in a good way. I completely expected Ritchie and wouldn’t have been that upset. But instead we really went for pure skill and that’s a cool thing.

    A good pick I feel. He brings a very high level of skill and I hope he turns out well.

  • Lupul4Captain

    I would love to see if we can get Berglund from st Louis for a pick and a defender have nylander play with a Sweede make his transition easier. On a side note picking up Nylander most likely means kadri is gone because can’t see this organization having to small really skilled centers on this team together