The Toronto Maple Leafs' top prospect William Nylander will be returning to MODO of the Swedish Hockey League. You might remember him from being selected eighth overall in this summer's entry draft or from the glowing write-up that he received in this offseason's Top 25 Under 25 where he was ranked 4th:
Exemplary vision, puckhandling skills .. gifted soft hands and exceptional in close puck skills .. can dangle as a solo artist, disguising intentions and supplementing mature stick handling skills and patience to hold on to the puck for as long as he must until an opportunity exists . innovative off the rush, inherently creative with solid vision and sharp instincts .. solid skating begins with an explosive first-burst acceleration and change of pace .. at best when cradling and playing a puck possession game.
He was among the final cuts and has demonstrated the right kind of response in his comments after receiving the news (courtesy of David Alter @dalter whom you should follow):
Jeffler compiled the Maple Leafs' preseason fancy stats and Nylander stood out among the crowd:
But the Leafs still need to figure out who starts on the right wing on line two, no? David Clarkson is hurt, and so is David Booth. The latter is definitely going to miss time, and the Chief of the Water Bottle Police is a question mark. My thoughts? This is where you reward William Nylander. Yes, there are parts of his game where it's evident that he's not ready for prime time. He makes the odd foolish giveaway, and he doesn't seem up to snuff in terms of his physical frame. But at 52.3%, he was one of Toronto's best possession players. He was a positive in four of six games, and generates a lot of offence on his own. I don't know if you can trust him to put up points, but he doesn't appear to be a liability yet. Plus, it buys you time to decide what league you want him in.
The reality is that there was no reason for the Leafs to rush Nylander through to the NHL. Having a player outperforming an Entry Level Contract can be a massive competitive advantage but it is wasted on a team that is likely to be middle of the pack at best. This allows the Leafs' to slide the ELC for one year while having Nylander exposed to a high level of competition and, perhaps most importantly when compared to having him play for the Toronto Marlies, away from the media in a town that often looks to build stars up before working to tear them down.
Having a top draft pick perform well in the preseason and then be allowed to continue to develop is usually a pipe dream as teams, especially the kind that can draft such exciting players, tend to want to sell their fans on hope. The Edmonton Oilers are a great example of a team that has never met a golden child that it couldn't immediately dress. The advantage that the Leafs had is that sending Nylander back to play with children wasn't an option, they could send him back to play amongst men. It's refreshing to see the Leafs look to use that opportunity to try to ensure that when Nylander does make the jump to the NHL that he is as prepared as possible.