NHL on NBCSN: William Nylander’s bounce-back season

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

William Nylander‘s 2019-20 season couldn’t be any more different than his 2018-19 campaign. First of all, he actually played in games between Oct and Dec. 1 (he was holding out as an RFA last year). Secondly, when he is in the lineup, he’s actually been producing at a good clip. But how has he been able to do it and can he keep it going?

Through 43 games, Nylander has accumulated an impressive 19 goals and 19 assists. That’s already more than he had in 54 games last year (he managed to score 27 points last season). So the fact that he’s been able to give them an added offensive threat is huge news.

The 23-year-old’s advanced stats are equally as impressive. When he’s on the ice, the Leafs control 55.86 percent of the shot attempts, 54.58 percent of the expected goals scored, they score nearly 60 percent of the goals and they generate 55.65 percent of the high-danger chances (all stats via Natural Stat Trick).

But the season hasn’t been perfect by any means. Just prior to the Christmas break, Nylander and teammate Kasperi Kapanen were benched for a good chunk of a game against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 21. At the time, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t make a big deal out of it, but it’s clear that Nylander got the message.

“It’s the way it goes … some nights guys are going to play more than others,” Keefe said about the reduced ice time for Nylander and Kapanen, per the Toronto Star. “Willy had an outstanding game (Friday) and was a difference-maker for us. Today it was other guys. That’s part of having a team and an 82-game season.”

Since that night, the Leafs forward has accumulated 11 points in just six games. He’s had two three-point efforts during that stretch and two two-point nights. He’s been nearly impossible to stop.

Of course, Nylander’s been playing with some pretty good players all year. He’s spent the most amount of time on the ice with Auston Matthews (473:19 this season), but lately he’s been skating on a line with captain John Tavares.

We’ll see if he’s able to keep this up the rest of the way, but it’s clear that the Leafs are a better team when they have secondary scoring behind Tavares, Matthews and Mitch Marner. Having other contributors would also allow them to overcome injuries if they were to pop up like they did to Tavares and Marner earlier this season.

The six-year, $45 million contract that general manager Kyle Dubas handed him last year doesn’t seem to be as bad as many fans made it out to be.

Kathryn Tappen anchors tonight’s coverage with Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. John Forslund and AJ Mleczko will have the call from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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