Nylander bumped down to fourth line after costly turnover versus Ducks

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After committing a costly turnover in Monday’s loss to Anaheim, Maple Leafs rookie William Nylander has apparently been dropped down to Toronto’s fourth line ahead of tonight’s game in Denver.

Nylander was skating this morning with Matt Martin and AHL callup Byron Froese. That’s the same trio that practiced together yesterday, causing quite the stir in Toronto.

Nylander, 20, has six goals and 14 assists in 30 games, his 20 points good for fourth among Leafs scorers. But in the third period against the Ducks, he over-handled the puck in his own end and was checked off it. Nick Ritchie scored seconds later, making it 2-1 for Anaheim. The Leafs eventually lost, 3-2.

The relationship between Nylander and head coach Mike Babcock has been under the microscope all season.

From a Toronto Star story:

If there’s a rookie Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock is tinkering with the most, it’s William Nylander.

Sometimes he’s a winger. Sometimes he’s a center. Sometimes he plays up in the lineup. Sometimes he’s on the fourth line.

There’s a message in there.

The message is this: If Nylander wants to be a top-six forward — and especially if he wants to play center — he needs to be responsible defensively.

The scrutiny of the Nylander-Babcock relationship has grown so intense that it’s led to trade speculation. The Leafs, after all, could use another defenseman or two, and a player with Nylander’s talent would certainly garner interest if he were made available.

Earlier this month, Babcock shot down the rumors, which also included James van Riemsdyk.

“We’re not looking to move those guys,” he said.

But that won’t stop the talk. The Leafs have a relative surplus of talent up front, and you can bet they won’t be trading Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner.

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