Toronto Maple Leafs Should Start William Nylander on Third Line

William Nylander,Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
William Nylander,Toronto Maple Leafs (Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs core-four is exceptional, but do all four players have to play in the top-six of the lineup?

During training camp, the lines were bundled and William Nylander started his on-ice session with Ilya Mikheyev and Alex Kerfoot. Typically, he’d be stuck beside John Tavares, but instead, Josh Ho-Sang was on his line, beside Michael Bunting.

I’ve always loved the idea of balancing out the roster. I know that Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews are one of the best offensive duo’s in the NHL, but do they have to play together every night? Personally, I’ve always thought that Matthews is good enough to be able to carry two “scrubs” similar to how Sidney Crosby carried Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz during their cup run’s.

If Toronto balances out the top-six, it could make the entire team better and add scoring depth in the bottom-six, when it was almost non-existent last year.

Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Put Nylander on the Third Line?

I know it’s a crazy thought to have a $6.9M player on the third line, but let’s look at the lines if they did do something like this:

  • Nick Ritchie – Auston Matthews – Josh Ho-Sang
  • Michael Bunting – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
  • Ilya Mikheyev – Alex Kerfoot – William Nylander
  • Wayne Simmonds – David Kampf – Jason Spezza

Slotting Ho-Sang into the top-line right-wing role is a stretch, but the one thing he’s always been good at during his career is racking up assists, while playing with speed. If his role to keep up with Matthews and find him the puck, he could be a great option on his wing.

Matthews scored 40 goals beside Connor Brown and Zach Hyman in his rookie season, so playing alongside Ritchie and Ho-Sang shouldn’t be much different. Maybe it’s Joey Anderson instead of Ho-Sang on that line, but Matthews is a good enough player to carry a line, especially if it makes the whole team better.

If you move Mitch Marner down to the second line with Tavares, it would make that line so much better. When those two played together every night in Tavares first season with the Leafs, he scored 47 goals, while Marner racked up a career-high 94 points.

Although the duo of Matthews-Marner is more fun to watch, the aging Tavares could benefit more from playing beside Marner every night, than he would Nylander. Also, as I can continue to mention, Matthews should be able to score with anyone on his line, so you wouldn’t be giving away too many more goals, if Marner didn’t play with Matthews.

Now. let’s get to the idea of Nylander playing on the third line.

Nylander is an electric player, and could be even more effective on the third line. When Pittsburgh won back-to-back Stanley Cup’s, they benefited from the HBK line, consisting of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel.

A line of Mikheyev-Kerfoot-Nylander is essentially the Leafs version of that HBK line. Both Mikheyev and Kerfoot play a very similar style to Hagelin and Bonino, while nobody on the Leafs gets compared to Kessel more than Nylander. (Some people think that Nylander doesn’t try or care about the game, which is the same narrative they said about Kessel. When in fact, that’s completely untrue).

Nylander can be that efficient player on the third-line who can provide depth scoring and can fly under the radar, not having to play against the other team’s best players every night.

Next. Leafs Have 3-Year Window to Win Stanley Cup. dark

If the Toronto Maple Leafs wants to win a Stanley Cup, they need to stop stacking their roster. When you’re relying on four players to do everything, it’s very hard to win. So instead, they should seriously consider breaking up their formula from last year, by moving Nylander to the third line, while also splitting Matthews and Marner up.