The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a decent start to the 2023-24 NHL season.
A 2-1 record led by Auston Matthews and his 2 hat tricks in the first 2 games of the season, proving his disappointing 2022-23 season was a fluke.
It’s no secret Auston Matthews has been the Toronto Maple Leafs best player so far, winning First Star of the Week in the NHL.
But the second-best player on the team so far has been William Nylander, and there’s no doubt about that.
Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander Off to an Incredible Start
William Nylander has been absolutely on fire to start the season, and he’s starting to get some recognition around the league. And so far, this season Nylander has been the Leafs second-best player.
That honour has historically gone to the previous mentioned Matthews, or the likes of Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, or the odd hot goalie run by Ilya Samsonov or even Jack Campbell.
None of these players have been bad so far this season by any means (other than Samsonov), but Nylander has no doubt been the second-best player on the team this season.
Nylander has often been looked at as ‘the worst’ or ‘least valuable’ member of the Leafs ‘core-four’, and this led to him being overlooked on the team, and a potential target for trades. Though to be fair, trade talk makes more sense now than it ever did, since the Leafs are very strong on forward and weak on defense, both in the NHL and with prospects.
William Nylander has continued to prove people wrong, and after a career season last year, he’s looking for another career best year this season.
In this season so far, which is also Nylander’s contract year, he has 3 goals and 3 assists in 3 games so far. His 6 points are tied for first on the Leafs in terms of points, as well as tied for the entire NHL lead in points. (all stats)
On top of this, Nylander has been a main driver of play in almost every game, as well as showing newfound confidence in his skating and puck control. He has lost his minutes at 5v5 so far because of bad goaltending, but he should be winning them – he has a 56% puck-possession rating and an Expected Goals rating of 60%.
Nylander has been nearly unstoppable so far, and he’s easily been the Leafs second-best player to start the season.
Let’s see if he can keep it up for the rest of the year.