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William Nylander meets an old friend at the IIHF World Championships: Nick Schmaltz of Team USA

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What are the chances that the top line from a bantam team of six years ago are all on the ice together today?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Chicago Blackhawks Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever the Toronto Maple Leafs go to Chicago to play, there is always a lot of talk about Connor Carrick going home. No one ever remembers that it’s home for William Nylander too, one of his homes, that is.

In 2000, Michael Nylander was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Chicago Blackhawks. He played there for two and a half years before he moved on to Washington. It was a decade later, however, as Michael’s NHL career had faded, that he had to find a team not just for himself, but for his 14 year old son, William.

He had some connections in Chicago, a Swedish coach on a team, and so William Nylander became a member of the Chicago Mission bantam team. He scored 34 goals and 61 points in 29 games.

Joining Nylander on this reign of terror around opposing nets were two more local boys: Nick Schmaltz and Christian Dvorak. Their coach talked to about the trio of future NHL players he had on his team together for one glorious year.

"You could tell at a young age that William and Nick were special players in terms of their hockey sense, skill level and how they carried themselves," Sorenson said. "William, Nick and [Christian] Dvorak played on the same line, and there were times when they were on the ice when I found myself more of a spectator than a coach."

Schmaltz now plays for the Chicago Blackhawks, Dvorak for the Arizona Coyotes, and they are both suiting up for Team USA at the World Championships today to face a Swedish team featuring Nylander. Anders Bjork of Team USA was also on Chicago Mission team in that fateful year.

Schmaltz said this to Hockey Sverige about those days:

William and I were first and second in the league points that season, so we dominated a lot. He is the best linemate I've had, but above all it was a fun time we had together in Chicago. We hung out together all the time and found the fun things to do off the ice. He became one of my closest friends

Schmaltz also discussed today’s game:

Nick Schmaltz has great respect for Nylander's skills as a player and sees the match against Tre Kronor as a major challenge for the young American team, who have an average age of 22.6 years - clearly the youngest of this year's World Championships.

“I expect it will be a tough match. “

When Schmaltz is asked what Nylander has for weaknesses, [he says,]

“Probably his haircut.”

You can watch the old linemates face off today from Cologne, Germany. The game is at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time, and is on TSN 1.