Weight: 172 pounds
Date of birth: March 2, 1998, Södertälje, Sweden
Position: Right Wing
OHL Draft: Round 1, 12th overall, CHL Import Draft
Toronto Maple Leafs fans are pretty excited about prospect William Nylander. As of now, they are in a prime position where they could grab younger brother Alexander in the 2016 National Hockey League draft. And if they are excited about William, then they’ll be on cloud 9 about Alexander.
Nylander last season played for AIK J20 in the SuperElit league and in 42 games scored 14 goals and added 25 assists. Not only did that experience bode well for his OHL debut, but so did his wealth of international experience.
Nylander played for Sweden at the Under-16’s – 1 goal, 1 assist in 3 games; the World Hockey Challenge Under 17’s – 2 goals, 5 assists in 6 games; the Ivan Hlinka Memorial – 2 goals, 4 assists in 5 games; and is currently vying for a spot on Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships Under-20.
I don’t often use the word elite – it’s something I save for the best of all time – but Nylander has some very elite qualities if he is not elite overall. His puck handling is elite and his hockey IQ is elite, his vision is elite. He is phenomenal in one on one situation. He is extremely elusive; defenders have to be aware of his presence constantly.
When I watched him at the Ivan Hlinka, I thought he played a soft game. But that is the furthest thing from the truth in his first OHL season. While he is more physically involved than his older brother, he’s not a basher. But he doesn’t shy away from the physical game – he’ll take what the opposition throws at him and keeps on going.
Nylander will also battle along the boards even though he needs to add some bulk. He plays it smart and has excellent puck possession skills, even in those battles. While he can improve defensively, he’s no slouch in that aspect of his game either. He works extremely hard to get back on the backcheck, and it’s helped out greatly by his skating.
Nylander currently leads all OHL rookies in goals, assists and points. Don’t take this as a knock on Nylander though – that is also a product of the OHL rookie eligibility rules.
The adjustment to North America has been smooth for Nylander. With his brother playing for the Marlies in Toronto and his father Michael – an NHL star himself – as his assistant coach in Mississauga, he’s had plenty of family around.
Mississauga head coach James Boyd to Sportsnet following the Import Draft:
“He plays the game at a fast-fast pace and he’s got a great shot and nose for the net. He’s one of the better players in his age group, in Sweden, likely in Europe. He’s going to be a key guy and someone to watch for at the NHL draft next year.”