People actually still think this. They live among us. They comment on the same posts you do on Facebook and Twitter! It’s crazy to think about it because he’s out-producing his contract value more and more as the season goes on.
Last night Nylander hit the 23-goal mark, a level he’s never hit before. Just as a reminder, people were upset and asking for Kyle Dubas to be fired because he was paying his star players on projected numbers rather than rewarding them for what they’ve already done.
His goal totals by NHL season are as follows:
- 2015/2016: 6 goals in 22 games
- 2016/2017: 22 goals in 81 games
- 2017/2018: 20 goals in 82 games
- 2018/2019: 7 goals in 54 games
- 2019/2020: 23 goals in 50 games*
*indicates season still ongoing
His 23rd goal of the season last night puts him on pace for just under 38 goals this season, and at $6.9 million that is an absolute bargain. You have to take into consideration as well that William Nylander has had a sort of renaissance since the firing of Mike Babcock, a coach who notably hated playing Nylander and would punish him by demoting him midgame.
So, why is Nylander performing much better this season than he had in the past? Well because he changed his number to 88 obviously. He’s a new-age Eric Lindros and the Leafs have this goal-scoring physical wrecking crew on the books for four more seasons after this, so things are looking up.
In all seriousness, there are two reasons I can see: he’s grown up and matured, and he’s now playing with John Tavares. His maturity seemingly took a big step forward after last season’s playoff run ended. The team needed to be better, and for whatever reason, Nylander took that on himself. He rebranded with a new number, he extended an olive branch to the fanbase that soured on him over his holdout by coving the cost of jersey restitching, and he took the World Hockey Championships seriously, using the tournament as a jumping-off point for his new commitment to hockey.
Moving to Tavares’ line cannot be understated in why Nylander has developed into a more threatening and complete player. Complete in the sense that he is more consistent offensively – I’m not going to try and argue he’s a defensive beast or anything like that. Tavares gets into the hard spots on the ice and wins puck battles in deep, freeing up time and ensuring possession for the lethal sniper that Nylander is.
Tavares’ grinding style of hockey is more predictable than Auston Matthews’ and this surely benefits the more creative Nylander to be the unpredictable element on the unit. He’s also thrived on a line that has seen different forwards factor in at leftwing, so clearly it’s all about how he and his centerman work together.
People are going to hate Nylander regardless of his offensive output. Probably because they can’t get over that he held out against their team, or because they’re jealous of his long hair and timeless good looks. It doesn’t matter because Nylander is a legit superstar and his long-term status at the club is nothing but a positive for Leafs Nation and a gold star on Kyle Dubas’ resume.