The top prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs is coming home. Okay, technically, he’s leaving home to come to Toronto, but the main point is that William Nylander has packed his bags and is now preparing to wear the Blue and White once again. The only question is, which logo will be on that jersey?
One of the biggest reasons that the Leafs sent Nylander back to Sweden to begin with? An opportunity to play a big role with a pretty good team in a very good league. The biggest issue? Modo Hockey haven’t lived up to that “pretty good team” moniker. Once known for developing legendary hockey players like Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and both the Sedin twins, the team is in dead last and have recently fired their head coach.
With that said, Nylander was far from the problem. If anything, he was the shining light at the hell-like tunnel; his 20 points in 21 games were far and away the best on the team. In fact, it was the third highest scoring rate in the SHL for players who have played at least twenty games. Only Jeff Taffe (33 years old) and Erik Christensen (31 years old) were ahead of him, and not significantly so.
In fact, let’s look at points per game a little more. Here’s where Nylander compares to other famous Swedish forwards in their eighteen year old seasons:
First off, since this is a Leafs website, let’s take this opportunity to mock Daniel Alfredsson for clearly being a late bloomer. Secondly, ARE YOU SEEING THIS LIST? Markus Naslund is the only one of these guys to produce at a greater clip in the main league; Willie’s father Michael was a little more productive in his time, but needed to be in the league below to do it. Naslund, the Sedins, and Forsberg all played their 18 year old seasons for Modo as well, making this all the weirder.
A New Hope
Which brings us to today. Much like the Leafs appear to have decided that losing games under unstable coaching was a bad idea, they’ve decided that their crown jewel probably shouldn’t do the same thing. They’ve successfully prevented Randy Carlyle from sending Nylander out to do suicides into brick walls (or whatever it is he will do), and now they’re pulling him out of his home country before his team decides that they’ll be converting to competitive hopscotch.
The Leafs call up Nylander after getting a semi-extended look at him on Air Canada Centre ice. After all, he just finished representing Sweden at the 2015 World Juniors, and Sweden was part of the Toronto pool, and played it’s elimination games here as well. In seven games, Nylander was arguably the best player on Sweden, putting up ten points in seven games. While there were some reasonable questions about his compete level and physical aggression (it’s Toronto, what else is new), he was offensively dominant on a 4th place Swedish roster, even when double teamed by his opponents.
I guess after seeing that, they didn’t want him to go home (though it appears he got a few days to pack). Now the only question is, does he play on the Marlies or the Leafs?
On one hand, some people would say that a move like this isn’t worth it just to send him to the American Hockey League. They’ll also point to the fact that the Leafs have a bit of scoring punch out of the lineup with injuries right now, and that Nylander has hands of butter and an ability to play all three forward positions.
With that said, I still think the Marlies are the best destination for him, and while he might squeak in an NHL game or two, his likely final destination for the year. We’re still talking about a young and physically undeveloped player after all, and it’s probably for the best that he doesn’t try to sprint into the best league in the world at the half way mark.
Editor’s Note: He’s definitely heading to the Marlies.
It’s absolutely worth the trip for him to accomplish this, too. One of the biggest concerns at the start of the year was that the Marlies wouldn’t be competitive enough for it to be worth the hassle for him, but with the roster filling out, the team that at one point lost nine in a row is rapidly returning to the playoff picture. The team has done a good job of keeping pucks out of the net, and Nylander would instantaneously give them a huge boost in putting some in. Besides, as mentioned before, it’s a better situation than the tire fire in Modo right now.
No matter which way the Leafs go with this, though, it’s good see him make the trip over. Excitement for Nylander is at a high right now, and many can’t wait to see him make contributions that benefit the organization.
During the World Juniors, I was doing some stuff for TELUS. This involved using their #AllHeartCanada hashtag. One of the games they sent me to was between Sweden and Russia, neither of which are Canada. So I hijacked the hashtag and created #AllHeartSnizzbone. Now that the World Junior’s are over, it’s time to claim an All Heart monopoly and make this the chosen hashtag. Here’s some material to get you started: