With the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs surprised many by selecting right wing William Nylander from Modo in the Swedish Elite League. William, son of former NHLer Michael Nylander, has been labeled by many draft pundits as the most skilled player available in the draft. A year ago, some were calling Nylander the top available player in this year's draft.
Nylander had a bit of a rough draft year, as he bounced around three different teams across the top two divisions of Swedish hockey. Nylander played 18 games on loan with Rogle and 17 games on loan with Sodertajle, both of the Allsvenskan (Swedish second tier). Nylander then was recalled to Modo in the Swedish Elite League and scored 7 points in 22 games. After the end of the Swedish hockey season, Nylander, born in Canada but represents Sweden at the international level, led Sweden to a fourth place finish at the World U18 Championship. Nylander was the standout player of the tournament, winning the scoring race by a margin of 5 points in just seven games.
Corey Pronman of ESPN had Nylander rated as the third best player available in the draft. Here's what he had to say about the now-Leaf:
The son of longtime NHLer Michael Nylander may be the most gifted pure offensive talent in the draft. William had a so-so first half when he struggled to find a role, but had a tremendous second half. Because of that turnaround, I've heard NHL scouts rank him anywhere from No. 2 overall to the 20s. He was over a point per game pace with Sodertalje in the SHL-2, setting a season record for points by an under-18 player, and played around 20 minutes per game with Modo down the stretch. Nylander's pucks skills are elite, as he can be described as "an artist" by some scouts in terms of how well he controls the puck, and the unique plays he makes. Nylander's hockey sense is fantastic as well, in terms of his vision, and offensive intellect. You combine that with a pretty good top gear and Nylander can create all sorts of havoc offensively. Nylander can deke a defender out, make a highlight-reel pass, speed by players. He's not the biggest guy (5-11, 181 pounds), his defensive play needs work, and he can try to do too much sometimes.
More to come.