Maple Leafs want more from Nylander: “He needs a boost”


TORONTO – The day after the Toronto Maple Leafs season nadir, players were told they didn’t have to go to the rink to train. Take it easy. Maybe think about your sins. Come back recharged.

A Leaf who had just lost to a goalkeeper-driver-boost from Zamboni was spotted at work anyway on his day off.

There was William Nylander at the Ford Performance Center, joining the wounded Ilya Mikheyev, pumping pucks to the enemy David Ayres, eliminating the embarrassment with more shooting exercises. And there was still Nylander this Wednesday, first on the ice.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world, then tell listeners everything they’ve heard and what they think.

The lazy thing about Nylander is that natural talent doesn’t make the effort, and we think a lot of this misconception has to do with the aesthetics of his game.

Nylander does not chug and charge, knock or crash. (Imagine: in 68 games, the guy threw nine hits, half of which probably by accident.) He floats and dives, weaves his head high, golden flow whispering in the wind. He makes a die-hard hockey industry want to throw lunch buckets at him.

But don’t confuse his mirage of effort with not trying.

“Will is a guy who likes to be on the ice, first of all,” said Nylander’s coach Sheldon Keefe. “There is no doubt about his work ethic and his preparation on the ice and in practice or on his personal time on the ice. He’s doing what he has to do to prepare, and I’m not worried about him on this front. ”

Admittedly, the 24-year-old group was worried about 2019-2020. And for a self-inflicted reason. It was one thing for Nylander to push her 2018 contract negotiation to the 11th hour, as was her right as a restricted free agent. It was another thing to see him cash in $ 12 million, score just seven goals and add one more in a seven-game playoff loss to Boston.

A stellar turn at the 2019 world championships, a vow to “dominate” last fall, a player of the year return from the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, and a campaign of 31 career goals later, Nylander appears to be worth every penny its $ 6.96 million cap hit.

“I was playing pretty well there,” said Nylander this week at camp, where he found Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman on the Toronto lead line. “I did well and I think I have started to find my game and to evolve in the areas where my strengths are. I was getting more out of my game. ”

What is both frustrating and encouraging, five seasons after the start of the NHL streak in Nylander, is the feeling that there is still much to do.

Keefe’s challenge is to summon a constant level of effort and competitiveness from the winger match to match. The feeling is that, yes, Nylander is a zone entry master and 42 takeaways this season are inflated, but he could have even more flights.

“It’s part of Will’s nature sometimes not to be as committed as you’d like.” And it needs a boost. Sometimes it comes from me, but sometimes it also comes from itself. He’s a tough guy, ”says Keefe.

The coach tries to guide through the positive reinforcement, showing Nylander clips not of his mistakes, but rather of the changes where he chases the puck with a solid stick and recaptures it along the wall. He wants to instill a sense of urgency in the player.

“Sometimes he doesn’t even need to see the clips. He knows the situations you’re talking about, ”says Keefe. “I showed him a number of different clips where he was all over the puck and back to the pucks. One very underestimated thing about William is the way he can grab pucks in terms of takeout in the offensive zone; he is very close to the top of the league in this regard. “

Lead writer Ryan Dixon and NHL editor Rory Boylen still give him 110%, but never trust podcasting clichés. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a diverse group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

Nylander has led all Leafs with seven wins this season, but hasn’t scored more than once in each of his three post-season series.

As with all subjects, the self-proclaimed “typical rockstar” (according to her Instagram biography) does not seem to be stressed by her production in do-or-die situations.

Nylander is a man of a lot of fashion and few words. One of his essential phrases is “of course”.

“Sure,” he and Matthews have chemistry.

“Sure,” he feels much better about heading to the Columbus series than the Bruins’ tilt last year.

“Of course”, he wants to prove that he is a showtime player in August.

“I mean, this is where the big players come in, and that’s where I think a lot of my game this year will help me become a dominant player in the playoffs,” said Nylander. “Playoff hockey is a little different, so I think that’s why we have to have a high intensity here at camp to prepare for all of it.”

As we have seen, a refreshed Nylander can be a dangerous Nylander.

During the break, he and his younger brother, Chicago Blackhawks forward Alexander, traveled to Florida. They soaked in the sun, played 45 tennis matches against each other (estimated score: Alex 23, Willy 22) and participated in video games. Optional shirts.

They also did this:

“We had a blast,” says Nylander. “We were just playing with [the Toosie Slide] and we thought it was a fun thing to do, which is why he published it. ”

But when the call came back to return to work, Nylander hurried back to Toronto to serve his forties. He only missed two days of Phase 2 voluntary training and, according to all accounts, his conditioning makes him ready for play.

“I feel good there,” smiles Nylander.

Of course.

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