The Toronto Maple Leafs’ offseason has not produced glamorous free agent signings or blockbuster trades. The roster as it stands today is what will be on the ice against the Montreal Canadians on October 8th. Not much different from last year’s roster and the minor changes to this year’s club gives nothing of optimism for the upcoming season.
The optimism lies in this year’s first round draft pick: William Nylander.
The 18-year-old Swedish centerman was selected with the 8th overall pick and has received nothing but gleaming adoration from the organization that drafted him.
Nonis boldly announced his opinion that Nylander “might be the most skilled guy in [the] draft. (Reminder: Aaron Ekblad (FLA) Sam Reinhart (BUF) and Sam Bennett (CAL) were apart of this draft). Newly hired assistant coach, Steve Spott, was quoted after Maple Leafs prospect camp that the young Swede was as good “as advertised”.
It’s clear that Leafs brass are high on Nylander and they are raving about his future as if he’ll be the next Darryl Sittler (also selected 8th overall by Toronto).
Here’s the skinny: He’s the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander who possesses much more skill than his father. He played for three different clubs last season, ending up with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League, Sweden’s highest level. He played, and impressed, against grown men in the SHL, which showed NHL scouts that he was prepared to become pro immediately. Because of his small stature (5-foot-11, 169 lbs.), quickness, and excellent puck control, he compares to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane .
The size is what worried scouts and is probably the reason why he slipped to the Leafs. It’s a concern, but team Exec Brendan Shanahan and Nonis think his skill will be enough to overcome his small stature (i.e. Kane).
The Swedish pivot impressed at prospect camp and will be at Leafs training camp in attempts to earn a roster spot. The organization could give him a short tryout to start the season to see how he handles the rigors of the NHL and whether he needs to grow a little more physically.
Regardless, Leafs fans will have lustful Wild Takes that will rival Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s cartoon wolf once they see Nylander play. His skill and tremendous puck control will be the first breath of fresh air in Toronto since Phil Kessel was traded by Boston to the Leafs.
The future was bright in Toronto before Nylander came to Canada’s biggest city. Now, Hollywood North has a star for which to gaze.
Click here for related Maple Leafs articles