The Nylander-at-centre experiment should be flushed quicker than Jose Berrios was against the Minnesota Twins

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Alberga
6 months ago
If there’s one thing I learned from yet another inconsequential preseason game on Thursday night against a watered down Detroit Red Wings squad, it’s that the Nylander-at-centre experiment should be put on hiatus indefinitely.
Almost as if it were scripted, the pending free agent, who was back in his customary wing position alongside John Tavares for the first time this season, scored an absolute beauty just 3:24 into the game. Just for good measure, the 27-year-old doubled down by potting the OT winner to bookend the scoring on the night.
The Leafs won the game, but who cares. This was the big story.
For all intents and purposes, it was a vintage William Nylander performance. And unsurprisingly, it came playing the position he’s excelled at for the brunt of his NHL career. Whether it was on the penalty kill, 5-on-5, or special teams, the Swede had himself a night —only helping to cement the notion that the wing is where he truly belongs. It was a fun experiment. But at this point, that’s all it was —an experiment.
In the grand scheme of things, I totally understand why the Leafs wanted to give this a serious look. In fact, come playoff time, all bets are off and everything should be on the table. Depending on the opponent, it would make a ton of sense to try and spread the wealth by rolling Matthews, Tavares, and Nylander up the middle. Talk about a matchup nightmare.
All things being equal, for now, I think the appropriate thing to do is cut bait on the idea altogether and just let Nylander cook.
At last, if Sheldon Keefe elects to go that route, it appears we’re back in a familiar position: debating who should play with John Tavares and William Nylander. Max Domi looked good, but personally, I think Matthew Knies is on a collision course to carve out a permanent role in the top-six.
Start your engines.

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