For those who were concerned that William Nylander’s struggles after signing a new contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs last December, the 23-year-old is showing off his abilities at the 2019 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia.
Nylander scored just 27 points (7 goals, 20 assists) in 54 regular season games and three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in the seven-game playoff loss to Boston after missing training camp and the first two months after a lengthy contract impasse, but currently leads the Worlds with eight points (2 goals, 6 assists) in three games, including a five-point performance in a 9-1 win over Norway on Monday.
While the competition is not up to the caliber of the NHL (Sweden has victories over Italy and Norway by a combined score of 17-1 and lost to the Czech Republic), Nylander thrived playing out of position on the left side and was part of a dynamic duo with Blue Jackets forward Alexander Wennberg that combined for three tallies against Norway.
Nylander’s return to form has to be considered a good sign no matter what the course of action the Leafs decide to take this summer. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas will have difficulty maneuvering through the club’s cap constraints with restricted free agents Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson needing new deals, and contracts like Patrick Marleau and Nikita Zaitsev difficult or nearly impossible to move.
A standout performance at the Worlds in front of a boatload of NHL GM’s and scouts would assuage the fears and boost up any drop in value after his subpar performance last season. That would give Dubas more leverage if the Leafs are considering swapping the speedy forward in exchange for the defensive help the club desperately needs.
The Toronto Marlies open the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final in Charlotte against the Checkers on Friday and Saturday, before returning to Coca-Cola Coliseum for three games next week Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
Defenseman Calle Rosen, who suffered a shoulder injury early in Game 1 of the second round series against Cleveland, skated separately from the club wearing a non-contact jersey on Monday, and his return to the lineup was described as “a ways away” by head coach Sheldon Keefe.
2015 draft pick Jesper Lindgren, who won the Finnish Sm-Liiga championship with HPK earlier this month, has joined the Marlies and could replace a young blueliner like Joseph Duszak or Mac Hollowell against Charlotte.
“We’re trying to implement (Lindgren) as much as we can. We’re trying to (get) him as comfortable as possible.” Keefe said. “He played some games with us last year so there’s some familiarity there. He’s coming off of a very good season both for he and his club team, so we like what he brings, but the guys that we’ve played here of recently, the Duszaks and Hollowells, these guys have played very well for us and are big reasons why we’re still continuing to play.”
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