Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, selected with the 8th overall pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, has wowed Leafs brass at the club's summer prospect camp.
"He's been very impressive. And not to put pressure on a young player like that, I think the first step was just getting him here," Maple Leafs president of hockey operations Brendan Shanahan told Joe Yerdon of NHL.com this week. "What really impresses me about William, aside from the skill level he has, is just his character that he's shown since he's been here.
"These kids that are here right now, you have to also create some spots for them," Shanahan continued. "You've got to have a few holes there with the big club so that not only these guys, but our [American Hockey League] guys who are in the gym in the mornings know that there's a reason to be working out this summer, that there's an opportunity and there's a job to be won possibly."
The Maple Leafs have several younger players who may have an opportunity to earn an everyday job at the NHL level next season, particularly forwards Peter Holland, Josh Leivo and Carter Ashton; and defenseman Petter Granberg. Competition will be stiff, but certainly Nylander - a hockey scion with a Slytherin haircut - has the most raw skill among that group of players.
He's also the shortest and slightest of those players, by a lot. The Leafs have made it clear to Nylander, as every team makes clear to pretty much every teenager at pretty much every summer development camp in North America, that he needs to get bigger and stronger.
"Stuff that I've been talking to them about is, in particular, in the gym," said Nylander. "Getting bigger and stronger is going to be a key factor."
Drafted out of the SHL, Nylander has more options than your average 18-year-old skater. Unlike players drafted out of the CHL, who have to wait a couple of years because of a pesky transfer agreement, Nylander can join the Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, next season. He could also return to Sweden to play in the top men's professional league, or he could play in the OHL (the Mississauga Stealheads own his import player rights).
Nylander's first goal though is to play in the NHL next season.
"I have never been at that level," Nylander said. "It's something that we'll have to wait and see what happens. It's something I'm working hard for right now and all summer to try and make a great impression there."
[H/T Kukla's Corner]
Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Bill Streicher