When the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted William Nylander with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft, a lot of people were surprised, including myself. Seeing that Nick Ritchie was still available and he fit the bill of what the Leafs have usually drafted in the past, hearing Nylander’s name was quite a shock.
So here we are now just over two months later. Nylander will have to dominate in the upcoming rookie camp as well as training camp and the exhibition season to even have a chance to crack the newly revamped Leafs roster. However, this article is not about this year, it’s about his long-term future with the Leafs. Specifically, where will he fit in the Leafs’ lineup?
Nylander can play either center or the right wing. He is obviously going to be a top-six forward. So, where does he end up? The Leafs’ top two centers are Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri. The Leaf’s top right winger is obviously Phil Kessel. Who fits in at No.2 on the right side this year is anyone’s guess.
Whenever Nylander finally makes the Leafs lineup, which in all likelihood will be the 2015-16 lineup, will they make the easy decision and place him alongside Nazem Kadri on the second-line? Do you really want to?
Nylander definitely has the talent to be a No. 1 center in the NHL. Does he have the size the Leafs covet? No, but I’m pretty sure he’d put up enough points to off-set the complaints about his size. So would he take Bozak’s spot on the first-line?
I don’t believe so. Bozak’s chemistry and friendship with Kessel have led them both to become better players in recent years. I believe there is another solution.
There have been plenty of trade rumors surrounding Kadri during his career with the Leafs. I think that as Nylander develops he will eventually make Kadri expendable and the Leafs will finally pull the trigger on trading Kadri while his value is still pretty high.
Nylander and Kadri have somewhat similar skill sets but Nylander probably has a higher potential. Dealing Kadri for other assets the Leafs need makes sense with Nylander in the fold.
That is just one possible solution. Who knows what could happen?