Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander Among Best Goal Scorers in NHL

The Toronto Maple Leafs may get a lot of flack for the contracts they have signed (which is a criticism that is shortsighted, ridiculous and not rooted in math or reality) but one thing nobody complains about any more is William Nylander’s deal.

That is because the Toronto Maple Leafs signed William Nylander to a $6.9 million deal that has become so value laden that it’s now one of the best contracts in the NHL.

It’s hilarious to imagine that people actually used to complain about it, and it’s weird that you don’t see too many people admitting how wrong they were about Nylander, but…. that’s just how she goes sometimes.

Despite having one of the most poorly informed group of haters in world history (at least until the Covid Vaccine came along) William Nylander has become one of the NHL’s best goal scorers.

I don’t think even his biggest supporters ever thought that that would happen, but it has.

Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander Among the Best Scorers in the World

In 2019-20, before the NHL shut down the season early, Nylander had 31 goals, on pace for 37 (the same as Phil Kessel’s career high).  He did this with hardly any PP time, and never being his teams go-to shooting option.  (stats naturalstattrick.com).

Nylander only has seven goals currently, and that is owing to a 6% individual shooting percentage at 5v5 where he only has three goals. He shoots well over 10% for his career. The even-strength goals will come.

On the power-play, Nylander is currently flourishing. He has three goals despite being (at best) the second shooting option.  That’s just one less than he had in all of last year.

Last season Nylander had 17 goals in 51 games, a roughly 30 goal pace.  This might not seem too great – but he had only 4 power-play goals all year, owing to the fact that he wasn’t on the Leafs first unit for most of the year, and then they had the worst power-play in hockey for the last 20 games of the season.

Had the Toronto Maple Leafs power-play been normal last year,  and had Nylander been on the first unit for most of the year, he likely would have once again flirted with a 40 goal pace, as he did the previous year.

If we look at total goals (all strengths) for the last three years, Nylander ranks 21st with 55 goals in 139 games.  5v5 goals, he ranks 18th. `

That makes him one of the best in the world.  Now, consider how he might perform if he didn’t play on a team where  Auston Matthews and John Tavares were the two main goal scoring options on the power-play.

I think the fact that Nylander ranks 21st in total goals over the last three NHL seasons proves my point, but there are a couple more things to consider.

  • In 2019-20 he led the NHL in net-front goals.
  • This year, according to the TSN broadcast last week, he leads the NHL in slot-shots. (Funny how his reputation as a perimeter player continues to persist despite facts).
  • From 19-21 he ranks 9th in 5v5 high-danger individual scoring chances created.

In conclusion, Nylander’s emergence as one of the best goal scorers in the world is a surprise.  For his first four season, he seemed like a solid player capable of 20 goals per year.

Since he exploded for 31 goals in 54 games we have had to recalibrate how we think of him.  The on-ice numbers and overall production show that that season was no fluke.  Last year he didn’t score at the same pace because he wasn’t deployed on the first-power play unit.

This year, he is getting almost 3 minutes of PP time per game, and once the 5v5 shooting percentage ticks back up, he should score at roughly a 40 goal pace.  If he hits 40 no one is going to doubt him.

But as it stands, ranking 21st in goals over the last three seasons, with inconsistent power-play usage and being the third option behind Matthews and Tavares, is enough of an accomplishment to say, without reservation, that William Nylander is one of the best goal scorers in the NHL.