While there were some positives to draw from William Nylander’s Marlies debut, the Swede learned very quickly that professional hockey in the Western Hemisphere is very different.
Sure, he’s had the experience growing up here as a kid. He also had his first training camp as well as the world juniors tournament in Toronto.
On Friday night in Hamilton, Nylander’s play was similar to that of his teammates, a step behind.
“He made a couple of mistakes, they didn’t cost us,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen. “He’s probably a pass-first mentality guy sometimes when he could be shooting pucks, but I thought he was fine out there.”
The Marlies were blanked by the Bulldogs 3-0 on Friday night, and Nylander played the entire night at left wing, as he continues to develop in that spot.
His best chance to score came midway through the second period, where he held the puck for an extended period of time around the Hamilton net, but his scoring opportunity wasn’t able to get through to the net.
Still, it’s just one game. One where the team as a whole struggled to get their legs under them.
“We were degrees off all game, we weren’t fully engaged,” Dineen added. “We threw a different look at the players in terms of the way they wanted to play and I don’t know if they were fully engaged in it.”
Nylander did show his speed, he appeared to be much faster than many players on the ice. It definitely was his strength. Early on, he was trying to find his bearings.
“I think from the start I tried to get going with the skating and slowly worked my way into the game,” Nylander said. “As the game went on we started to make plays.”
There wasn’t a lot of hitting in this game, the expectation is Nylander will see a lot of hitting as the season goes along.
For now, it’s going to be a time of transition for Nylander, who expects to find his comfort zone fairly quickly.
“Of course coming into the first period, I was nervous,” Nylander added. “As the game went on that went away and I started to get better.”
Nylander played alongside Greg McKegg and Spencer Abbott. As is the normal in the AHL, that trio isn’t expected to stick together on a nightly basis. Rosters are bound to change. With the change comes the adjustment in chemistry.
“He skates really well, you could see that tonight,” McKegg said. “After the first period you really got to see flashes of his skating and skill.”
The team recognizes the type of talent they have now. While the score didn’t show it on Friday, it can only go up for Nylander.