Toronto Maple Leafs: Unlucky Nylander Due for Explosion

Toronto Maple Leafs young star winger William Nylander has struggled since his return to the lineup in early December.

Or has he?  Perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs fans and media have been beating the wrong dead horse.


Oh please!  Of course they have.

It wouldn’t be Toronto if the fans and media weren’t getting it 100% wrong.

Nylander Playing Well

If there is one thing you can take to the bank, it’s that the mainstream media will rip on players who don’t have the point totals they expect them to have, and that this will trickle down to the fans.

So everyone is hating on William Nylander despite the fact that there is a mountain of evidence that says he is playing well.

Hockey is a game where luck is heavily involved in the outcome, and so statistical analysis has helped teams avoid giving contracts to players with high PDO based totals, and helped them find diamonds in the rough and get value on players whose point totals don’t reflect their value. (Among other things).

You can see a microcosm of this happening right now in Toronto with Nylander who is playing awesome but not getting rewarded on the score sheet.

William Nylander

This is is getting to be such a joke.  People want to rip Nylander but to do so requires not paying any attention to the games while they’re on, and completely ignore the underlying stats.

The media won’t drop this story because three points in 15 games make it really hard to counter unless you get all technical.

Who wants to discuss his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone and how much this helps the Leafs?

Or his team leading possession numbers?  Not too sexy!

Or what about the weird amount of times he’s started a play only to end up being the third assists (not a thing) or to see the guy he passed to completely robbed or hit the post?

Or that the WOWYs (with you, without you) show that of the five most common linemates of Nylander’s, four of them improve when he’s on the ice with them.

Or what about the fact that the Leafs get their highest rate of shots per minute with Nylander on the ice? Or that 56% of the total scoring chances when he is on the ice go to the Leafs? (Also the highest on the team).

Kadri (most common Nylander linemate) has one goal since Nylander returned to the lineup, but he’s also playing well (but people aren’t mad at him, so he is avoiding the heat).

Matthews has one goal in his last eight games.

If there guys are scoring – and all the numbers say they are getting unlucky – then Nylander is piling up assists and we aren’t having this conversation.

Nylander has a personal shooting percentage of 4.35% and an on-ice shooting percentage of 6.31% which is crazy-low and about half of what it can be expected to be normally.

And despite scoring at a rate of less than half of what should be expected, the Leafs GF% with Nylander on the ice is still 50% – that means that Nylander is so good, that even when he isn’t scoring to a ridiculous degree, the team is still breaking even.

People – these are superstar numbers.

If there is one statistical law you can take with 100% certainty, it’s that a player with a high possession rating but low shooting percentages is playing better than you think.

Nylander is an elite player whose bad luck happens to coincide with a return to the lineup after a protracted holdout.

He creates scoring chances more than anyone on a team that features Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly, Nazem Kadri, John Tavares and Auston Matthews. He drives possession with his neutral zone play better than anyone on the team (making him a defacto elite defensive player).

Next: Leafs Top Prospects (2019)

Nylander is in a slump, but he’s actually playing great.

It’s time to recognize this.

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