TORONTO -- There was a quiet swagger to William Nylander when the Toronto Maple Leafs forward walked into the NHL.com interview room during the 2019 European Players’ Media Tour in Stockholm.

It wasn’t ego or pompousness or braggadocio, none of that. No, this was more a sense of inner confidence, a deep hunger that continuously was driving him to get better, to want more, to be the difference-maker he always wanted to be.

Asked what his goals were, his answer at the time spoke volumes.

“I’m looking forward to dominate,” he said.

On Monday, more than four years after making that statement, it was suggested to the 27-year-old that his words had come to fruition, at least in the first month of the 2023-24 NHL season.

“I just feel like I’m doing my thing that I’ve been doing the past couple of years,” Nylander said. “It’s nice that you say you think I’ve hit a new level.

“But I just keep going on.”

Here’s the rub: Using Nylander’s own words, he is arguably doing his “thing” better than he ever has. And because of that, he has a chance to put his name in the history books of one of the NHL’s Original Six franchises.

When Nylander steps onto the ice with his Maple Leafs teammates to face the Los Angeles Kings at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, TSN4, TVAS2), he’ll bring with him a franchise-tying eight game point streak to start a season. Should he hit the scoresheet in front of the capacity crowd, he alone will own the record of nine, breaking a tie with Frank Mahovlich (1961-62), Lanny McDonald (1976-77) and John Anderson (1982-83).

“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “I’m just focusing on having a good game tomorrow.”

He’s had plenty of those in this young season.

It’s not just the 12 points (six goals, six assists) he’s accrued thus far that is catching the attention of his teammates and the rest of the hockey world. It’s also the way he’s doing it, showcasing shifts in which he skates around the opposition with the puck seemingly glued to his blade like he’s competing in a Friday night beer league.

Kopitar, Kings face Nylander, Maple Leafs on ESPN

It goes back to his “dominate” comment, something linemate John Tavares certainly acknowledges concerning his teammate’s game right now.

“I think we’ve seen that from some of the goals that he’s scored this year, right?” the Maple Leafs captain said. “Just pretty remarkable, remarkable plays, ability. And within those, you see the drive and determination. So, there’s no doubt he continues to push himself to wanting to be dominant, be one of the best players in the world, and make an impact on a nightly basis.”

And not just when he has the puck, Tavares said.

“I think he’s really grown his game to be more well-rounded, more complete, and you see that with him playing more minutes on the penalty kill, more defensive zone situations and things like that.

“I just think he’s had a lot of growth in a lot of areas. And I just think that’s the natural evolution of an elite player, a very driven player.”

The numbers back up Tavares’ point, especially when it comes to Nylander’s improved defensive prowess resulting in less time in his own end.

According to NHL EDGE Stats, the puck is in the offensive zone 46 percent of the time when he’s on the ice at even strength vs. only 35.8 percent in the defensive zone. Those are the types of numbers any coach would love, and Toronto’s Sheldon Keefe is no exception, noting Tavares’ attention to defensive details not only is rubbing off on Nylander, but also is freeing him up to go on the offensive.

“He does such a good job defensively, I just kind of read off him and see when the situations happen,” Nylander said of Tavares. “I think that’s also because we’ve been playing together for such a long time, we kind of know each other and can find each other where we can go.”

TOR@NSH: Nylander gives Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead with PPG

Nylander’s journey in the past 50 months since making his public comments about wanting to be dominant has been eventful, to be sure.

In that time, he’s seen a coaching change from Mike Babcock to Keefe, and a change in Toronto general managers from Kyle Dubas to Brad Treliving. Like the rest of us, he lived through the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, which delayed and reformatted the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and resulted in a truncated 2020-21 regular season.

Prior to the Maple Leafs 2020 training camp, he quarantined for 14 days in a house with then-teammates Joe Thornton, Auston Matthews, Rasmus Sandin and Mac Hollowell. Thornton, who announced his retirement Saturday, obviously influenced Nylander, who Monday addressed the media while going shirtless, which is one of Thornton’s trademarks.

“A lot of good memories with Joe,” Nylander said. “Just an incredible guy. I mean, it’s been an honor to play with a legend like him.”

Asked if he was paying tribute to Thornton by going sans shirt, Nylander replied: “Yeah, probably.”

He then broke into a wry grin. Indeed, he’s got plenty of reason to smile these days, especially with the way his game has ascended the past few seasons.

In 2021-22 he set career highs for goals (34), assists (46) and points (80). Last season he upped all of those with 40 goals, 47 assists and 87 points.

Onward and upward.

“He feels good about his game, he’s on a mission,” said Maple Leafs defenseman John Klingberg, who’s played with Nylander on the Swedish National team. “He’s one of the top players in the League right now. I think he’s been a little underrated. Now you see what he’s capable of …

“He’s been our best player and he’s important for this team.”

You don’t have to sell Treliving on Nylander’s value.

Nylander is entering the final season of a six-year, $41.4 million contract ($6.9 million average annual value) he signed Dec. 1, 2018, and has been eligible to sign a new contract since July 1. The Maple Leafs GM has called locking up Nylander a priority.

Of course, Nylander’s hot start has led to cynics wondering if his motivation comes from the fact that he’s in a contract year and is in line for a significant bump in pay.

“I mean, it’s there,” he said of his contract situation. “But I think the mindset I’ve always had is to be better every year.

“So, I mean, that’s there. But I don’t think I’d be playing any different than if it wasn’t a contract year.”

Spoken like a player who continues to pursue dominance.