January 19, 2015
TORONTO– The Toronto Marlies struggled early in the season because they often lacked enough talent to execute anything in the offence end of the rink. That, however, cannot be an excuse in the second half of the season.
The Marlies are expected to have Swedish prospect William Nylander make his North American debut this Friday when Toronto takes on the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Nylander, selected by the Maple Leafs eighth overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, passed his first test of the 2014-15 season with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League by producing 20 points in 21 games as an 18-year-old. Then, most recently, he showcased himself at the world junior hockey championships as the only player in Top-5 tournament scoring who wasn’t Canadian.
“He’s a pretty impressive young man, both at prospect camp and rookie tournament this year,” Marlies coach Gord Dineen told LeafsTV. “He certainly possesses a high skill level and seems to have a real love of the game.
“He’s a guy that I would think would come in and be a real benefit to our hockey club.”
Nylander has the ability to play the wing but could easily slide into centre with the Marlies, who have lacked depth down the middle all season, depending on how the organization wants to develop him for the future.
For now, Dineen isn’t as concerned with where the five-foot-11, 174 pounder fits in, but that he’s able to transition from the European game to North America as easily as possible.
“Certainly the size of the rink will be an adjustment, things will happen quicker, you don’t have the skate space like you do on the European rink. He’ll have to adjust and find a way to create space in other ways,” said Dineen.
The Marlies coaching staff won’t be the only ones assisting with Nylander’s change in scenery either. Toronto currently has three Swedish defenceman on the roster who he can rely on- including Viktor Loov, who played the 2013-14 season alongside Nylander on MODO.
“Just sharing their experiences, coming over, the adjustment to our level of hockey and the North American style,” said Dineen. “Certainly with our Swedish contingent, we have some guys who are full of life…. I’m sure (Nylander) will be a guy who has a good time with our group.”
The timing of Nylander being summoned from Sweden couldn’t be better as the Marlies have improved their lineup in other ways as well. Toronto has healthy bodies back and the addition of skaters sent down from the Leafs that make the club more skilled than any other time this season.
A team that once dressed enforcers Frazer McLaren, Colton Orr, Troy Bodie, Jamie Devane and David Broll along with ECHL call-ups earlier in the year no longer has to go that route.
Down the middle the Marlies could have Greg McKegg, Ryan Rupert and Nylander with wingers Matt Frattin, Carter Ashton, Brandon Kozun, Josh Leivo, Connor Brown and Spencer Abbott to fill out the the first three lines.
When it was originally announced that Nylander would be joining the Marlies, the club was on a road trip. He is expected to practise with them for the first time on Monday.