One of the more interesting storylines around the Toronto Maple Leafs this season has been Mike Babcock testing the waters a bit more often with William Nylander at the centre position. It’s not a secret that with Tyler Bozak likely not being a Leaf next season, the organization would love to see Nylander become a full-time centre it can rely on. The Leafs have experienced some turmoil over the last month or so as they’ve struggled to win games in regulation, but preparing for the future while they have an extended Cup window makes sense in a season that’s unlikely to be this roster’s peak. When looking at Nylander’s game and how he could transition to centre, it makes sense to first compare him to his past self at 5-on-5 to see if he’s been making progress. We’ll do that in two ways. First, let’s look at how Nylander stacks up relative to his teammates in some metrics that are especially important for centres. Secondly, we’ll look at how his puck management relative to teammates has changed over time. After comparing Nylander to himself, we can compare him directly to the other centres on the Maple Leafs this season, and see how he stacks up. Two things to keep in mind with Nylander’s year-over-year statistics is he only played 22 games in the NHL in 2015-16, and that Leafs team was very bad. So when you’re looking at Nylander compared to his teammates, remember that the team around him got much better in 2016-17. Nylander’s offensive involvement has been remarkably consistent, staying far above team average for scoring chance production as the Leafs have improved as a team each season in scoring chance creation.
What moving Nylander to centre could look like for Leafs
Sportsnet | Jan 20