I don’t know how many times I’ll be able to say “William Nylander is really good at hockey” before you all get bored and young Snizzbone puts a restraining order on me. With that said, that day hasn’t come yet, but the start of the Toronto Marlies’ season came tonight. A somewhat renovated Ricoh Coliseum was the home of many debuts tonight, but it was the 19-year-old sophomore who stole the show.
Playing on a line with Richard Clune and Connor Brown (apparently, Bobby Cappucino was on to something), the young Swede seemed somehow more confident than he was last season. Ever play was made with intent, he wasn’t scared to go into dirty areas, and his end game in every shift was to get pucks to the net. Did he ever, too; he lead both teams with nine shots in a game where nobody else took more than four. His linemates only picked up a single shot on net each, and Clune’s was a direct result of a Nylander-created scoring chance.
The most important of these shots, however, was his goal that opened up the scoring for the Marlies in the first period. Taking advantage of a boarding penalty to Ryan Olsen, the Marlies sent out one of the scariest powerplay units that you’ll see in the AHL, which included Zach Hyman and Richard Panik on Nylander’s wings, and Connor Brown acting has the forward on the point with triggerman defenceman TJ Brennan on the right side.
As you can see in the above video, Nylander falls back for Brown as he pinches like his typical forward self, and carries the puck into the offensive zone. Once Brown chips the puck up to a forechecking Richard Panik and begins to peel back, Nylander heads straight to the net, putting himself in prime position to bury a one-timer. When the opportunity came, he made no mistake, though it took the puck a second or so to actually trickle past Connor Hellebucyk. The highly touted Jets prospect got the better of him in a few close situations later in the game, but the goal set the tone for the Marlies to overwhelm the Moose in the opening two periods.
Of course, Nylander wasn’t the game’s only positive. The second unit of Josh Leivo, Byron Froese, Matt Frattin, Brendan Leipsic, and Stuart Percy picked up a tally in the second period, three players (Panik, Leivo, and Sam Carrick) had multi-point games, team captain Andrew Campbell became the second Marlies Captain to score in his first game wearing the C, and Viktor Loov punished his opponents with multiple open-ice hits throughout the game. Sheldon Keefe showed some creativity at times, making temporary line tweaks based off of the time on the clock and zone situations.
Overall, it was a very good showing for the blue and white, who are expected to be one of the league’s offensive powerhouses this season. It’s one thing to do this for one game, though; they have to repeat this for another seventy-five, and possibly a few more in the playoffs. Tomorrow will be their first attempt towards developing that consistency, as they take on the Moose once again at 3:00 PM.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com