Playoffs will put Nylander’s enchancment to the check


After a brutal 2018-19, the Leafs’ William Nylander emerged as a drive this season by going to the soiled areas to create turnovers and objectives. However can he proceed his development within the playoffs when the going will get more durable? William Nylander|John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY SportsBY LUKAS WEESE
It’s onerous to not discover William Nylander. From the “hockey-flow” hair to his buzz-worthy Instagram posts, the Maple Leafs winger stands out. 
Nevertheless it’s on the ice the place the staff and followers hope he makes the most important affect. After a disappointing 2018-19, outlined by a contract holdout, Nylander’s marked enchancment this season was welcome growth for Toronto. 
Nylander skating and puck-moving seems easy, nevertheless it’s that type that pulls criticism from his naysayers who query his toughness and his capability to provide in opposition to greater, bodily groups.  
The numbers, nonetheless, recommend these issues are misplaced. 
Nylander is likely one of the league leaders in offensive-zone takeaways, however extra noteworthy is the place these takeaways happen: the vast majority of Nylander’s takeaways at even-strength come alongside the boards, the place turnovers happen due to puck battles, not picked-off passes.
Graph per evolving-hockey.comWhile he might not win bodily battles, Nylander is utilizing smarts and onerous work alongside the boards to realize management of the puck.
“One very underrated factor about William is the best way he can win pucks again by way of takeaways within the offensive zone,” mentioned Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe throughout a convention name. “He’s proper close to the highest of the league in that regard.”
Nylander can be exhibiting a propensity for going to the soiled areas, not like final season the place he struggled to attain in entrance of the web. This 12 months, generated a better share of his objectives from point-blank vary.
Nylander 2018-19 Targets (by way of Icy Information)

Nylander 2019-20 Targets (by way of Icy Information)

And total, getting in entrance of the web has translated into better offensive manufacturing. Final season, Nylander recorded simply seven objectives in objectives 54 video games (0.13 GPG). This 12 months, he recorded 31 objectives in 68 video games (.046 GPG).
Nylander additionally benefitted from Sheldon Keefe changing into the Leafs new coach. Keefe is extra prepared to regulate on a whim, which incorporates bunching the Leafs prime forwards on the identical line.
When this occurred, the Leafs exploded on offense. Anticipated Targets For Proportion (XGF%) is a share of the anticipated objectives {that a} staff recorded in comparison with its opponent whereas Scoring Possibilities For Proportion (SCF%) measures the scoring alternatives for a mix of gamers on the ice on the similar time. Utilizing these metrics collectively can measure the potential offensive manufacturing of sure line mixtures.
Information from Pure Stat TrickThe most profitable permutation is when Nylander is with John Tavares and Auston Matthews. With Nylander’s capability to carry onto the puck within the offensive zone, it results in heightened scoring possibilities, given the expertise of his linemates. 
“It’s no secret that we’ve received actually good offensive gamers, so, yeah, we do have numerous alternatives there,” Keefe mentioned. “It retains the opposition on their toes, however most significantly, I feel it simply provides our guys a lift and it’s a change that may get issues going.”
The problem for Nylander is retaining his depth ranges up in any respect factors through the recreation. At occasions, Nylander seems aloof and never at all times dialed in in comparison with his teammates. 
Keefe mentioned engaged on this with Nylander, utilizing movie for example the place he must hold forechecking to make sure offensive zone time. 
“It’s a part of Will’s nature, at occasions, to not be as engaged as you’d like him to be. And he wants a push,” Keefe mentioned.
In a brief, best-of-five collection upcoming with the bodily Columbus Blue Jackets, a quick begin is required, and Nylander must show he will be constant all through. For the advance course of to come back full circle, Nylander must show himself within the large moments of a playoff collection.
“I imply, that’s the place the massive gamers present up,” Nylander mentioned in a convention name, “and that’s the place I feel an enormous a part of my recreation this 12 months will assist me develop into a dominant participant within the playoffs.”
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