The Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander could not come to a contract agreement last year in time to start the season.
Because of the contract stalemate, the Toronto Maple Leafs had to play the first two months of the season without one of their best players.
After he returned, Nylander wasn’t himself for about a month.
Starting in mid January, he actually put up very good numbers (led the Leafs in puck possession, led the NHL in on-ice scoring chances created per minute, and was fifth in individual scoring chances per minute) but was snakebitten in terms of his and his linemates shooting percentage. (All stats 5v5 naturalstattrick.com).
This led to a lot of unfair criticism.
But all that is behind us, and the only people criticizing Nylander now are those with a personal grudge who would still find something to complain about if won a scoring title.
Nylander Is Back
So far this year, William Nylander has been an excellent player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His seven points in 11 games don’t even begin to tell the whole story.
First of all, his on-ice shooting percentage is actually lower than it was last year. This is a problem that will correct itself, especially now that he’s primarily playing with Auston Matthews again.
Secondly, his lack of a position on the Leafs first power play unit suppresses his totals. Not that they’re bad – if his luck stays the same, he’s on pace for 20-25 goals and 55-60 points. If you’re a second line PP player, those are strong totals.
But if we look a little deeper, we can see how he is playing excellently.
Nylander’s 5v5 scoring continues to be elite. Despite a low 5v5 on-ice shooting percentage, Nylander ranks 18th in the NHL among players who’ve skated 150 minutes in points per minute.
He sits 9th in individual scoring chances per minute, 7th in on-ice scoring chances per minute. Second in on-ice shot-attempts per minute. Only one forward in the NHL (Anthony Mantha) has produced more shots per minute, and Nylander’s shot differential is much better.
These numbers are going to lead to much higher point totals than we’ve seen so far.
Nylanders expected goals double his actual goals, and he continues to be an elite play driver, with a 57.5 CF%, which is the seventh best in the NHL.
As I’ve said all along, the only thing that is stopping Nylander from being an elite NHL point producer is a spot on the PP1. He seems to have gotten that with Tavares out of the lineup, but he when Tavares comes back, Nylander should stay in Tavares’ previous role, while returning Tavares to the spot he held last year (currently occupied by Johnsson).
At this point, if you’re hating on Nylander, you’re going out of your way not to like one of the best players on your favorite team. He’s never going to be the kind of player who drives the net, or mixes it up in the corners, but it takes all kinds of players to be successful.
Nylander is an elite NHL talent and he is primed for an offensive explosion.