Maple Leafs: The case for keeping William Nylander

There are a lot of raw emotions and differing opinions on the current contract dispute between the Maple Leafs and William Nylander. During this difficult contract situation, there were some in Leafs Nation ready to cast Nylander aside. Trade him! Came the calls from all corners across social media. There is nothing like stats to put emotions aside and grow to appreciate Nylander and what he has accomplished even more.

If we look simply at Nylander’s 61 points the last two seasons, the stats don’t jump off the page as anything significant. It is when we dig deeper into how Nylander has been deployed in comparison to his production that the stats really take shape.

Nylander over his first two seasons in the NHL has averaged 16:21 of ice time per game. When comparing it to other top wingers, Nylander averages about 2 minutes less in ice time per game and he was only deployed for about 2:11 minutes on the power play. When factoring in his production over 60 minutes on 5v5, his stats really stand out.

  • William Nylander: 2.04 Points per 60 min. (2016-2018)

Nylander’s 2.04 places him 45th in the entire NHL for Points per 60 min. (2016-2018, 300 TOI min.). These stats place him in a group with brand new teammate John Tavares and ahead of a player like Taylor Hall.

Things swing even more in Nylander’s favor when we look at his stats on the Power Play when factoring in how little opportunity he has in comparison to his actual production.

  • William Nylander: 6.01 Points per 60 min. on 5V4 (2016-2018)

Nylander’s 6.01 places ranks him 15th for players who played 300 TOI over the same two-year period (2016-2018). On a simple per minute basis on the Power Play, Nylander’s production ranks him higher than Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom and Connor McDavid. The results and perception of Nylander are skewed due to the limited opportunities afford to him and Matthews in their first two seasons in the NHL.

Outside of the points production, the other reason for keeping Nylander is how his addition would improve overall team balance and deployment of the Maple Leafs top three lines.

As things stand now the Maple Leafs top three lines look like now:




What they might look like with Nylander in the line-up:




What I like most about the line-up including Nylander is diversity and balance of the offence. The Tavares line would remain the same, where things really get interesting are on the Matthews’ and Kadri’s lines. Matthews would be flanked by two of the most dynamic players on the Maple Leafs. In Kapanen, Matthews has a higher-end Hyman who will dig for the puck and has better hands to score goals on the rush or in the dirty zone in front of the net.

With Nylander, Matthews has his familiar set-up man and with Nylander’s propensity to let off a lighting quick wrist shot of his own, Nylander would really open up space for Matthews allowing him the freedom to get his fair share of looks on goal as well.

For Kadri it places Patrick Marleau on his wing, a familiar face who he had great success playing with and who was instrumental in Kadri’s back to back 30 goal seasons. Similarly, to the first two lines, there is a combination of grit/hustle from Brown and Kadri and the speed/creativity of Marleau. Watching Kadri struggle to start the season, one would think having Marleau back on his line would be the tonic he needs to get his game going as well.

The impact on the line-up configurations and Nylander’s own individual contributions on 5V5 and on the power play outline the reasons he is so important to the Maple Leafs and why negotiating a new contract has been very difficult for both sides.

With all that said however, one shouldn’t discount the value and talent that Nylander has displayed so early into his young NHL career. If his current results are any indication, the Maple Leafs have a keeper on their hands. Here’s hoping this conflict is resolved soon, so we can get back to watching Nylander creating magic with Matthews and the rest of the Maple Leafs.