The happiest person to see William Nylander back in Toronto is Marlies defenceman and former MODO teammate Viktor Loov
“It’s always good to have a lot of Swedish guys around you,” said Loov on Monday at Nylander’s first practice.
As his fellow countryman gets adjusted to the smaller ice surface and physical element of the game, Loov is happy to share his words of wisdom as well as his facilities. They have been spending time together as roommates.
“Now I have to cook for two and right now he’s downloading games on his Xbox so he’s using all the internet,” Loov jokes. “I can’t even watch three minutes of video on YouTube, so I’m screwed right now.”
Nylander’s first practice was scrimmage based. He’ll be put through the paces as the week goes on before making his debut on Friday night in Hamilton.
During the week, Nylander’s role on the Marlies will start to take shape.
“Right now the focus is on being a better player,” Nylander said on Monday. “Hopefully it’s a last step to the NHL but that’s something we’ll have to wait and see.”
He will play a combination of centre and right wing. It’s expected he’ll be surrounded with the likes of Connor Brown and Josh Leivo - that was among one of the more popular rotations.
The AHL experience will allow Nylander to better handle some of the defensive elements of his game, which was an adjustment that became apparent when he was in Toronto earlier this month.
“He’s a guy that likes to use his speed, but you have to have that stop/start mentality in this type of game,” Marlies coach Gord Dinneen said.
During the World Juniors, Nylander showed an ability to produce. He was fifth in tournament scoring with 10 points, but management wanted to see more from his all-around game. The knockout stages of the tournament were particularly disappointing for Nylander, and for Sweden, as they finished fourth.
“The space on the ice, you play a lot against meaner players,” said Loov. “Harder hits like crosschecking and stuff. He needs to get used to that.”
Nylander’s offensive output will be a big boost to the Marlies who had issues scoring to start the year, but have since been playing their best hockey.
Another change will be getting used to the AHL schedule where teams play three games in three nights.
“Three-in-three is going to be different, that’s going back to when you were a kid,” Nylander said. “It’ll be a bit of an adjustment.”
The key going forward for Nylander is patience. There will be that urge and desire to see what he can do in a Maple Leafs uniform., but he needs the reps. There is still a lot to work on from a developmental standpoint and there are no plans to see Nylander with the Leafs this season. It will nevertheless be exciting to see what he can do in the city of Toronto on a daily basis.
Still, Loov is happy to show him the way — at a price.
“He’s going to pay for my food because I’m letting him stay at my place.”