TORONTO -- William Nylander has not produced at the level he and the Toronto Maple Leafs had been accustomed to since the forward returned to the lineup two weeks ago, and coach Mike Babcock is not surprised.
"You'd like it to go better for the guy than it has, but I didn't expect it to go any better," Babcock told TSN Radio 1050 on Friday. "I still think he's a couple of weeks away. We've talked quite a bit about that. There's no sense getting inside your own head, don't get frustrated. Just come to work, win your one-on-one battles, play as simple as you can, keep your shifts short and every day in practice work at it."
Nylander played his first game of the season Dec. 6 against the Detroit Red Wings. He had been away from the Maple Leafs as a restricted free agent until signing a six-year contract worth $6.9 million annually minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline to play in the NHL this season.
The 22-year-old has two assists, each on Dec. 11 against the Carolina Hurricanes, in seven games since returning to the lineup. On Thursday against the Florida Panthers, Nylander played a season-low 11:37 and missed a chance to score when he hit the side of the net with goalie Roberto Luongo out of position.
Nylander said earlier in the week he felt stronger when he first returned and is having to work hard at this point to get his conditioning where it needs to be.
"I felt more fresher probably in the beginning and now I'm battling through it," Nylander said. "I've got to get back up to where I was two weeks ago."
Nylander, who had 61 points in each of his first two NHL seasons, admitted he is becoming frustrated with himself.
"I think I've got to be (patient), but at the same time you want to perform and stuff," Nylander said. "It gets to the point where you're going to be mad, you want to get going."
Babcock told TSN Radio 1050 he understands what Nylander is facing, not producing immediately while trying to live up to his new contract.
"It makes it harder on you when you think you should be scoring and you're not and then the pressure mounts," Babcock said. "The pressure just means you expect more of yourself, it's no big deal. He's going to be fine, and just keep working."
Nylander first played on a line with Auston Matthews, as he had for most of the prior two seasons, but was moved after the second period against the Red Wings and has played on a line with Nazem Kadri and Patrick Marleau since.
After missing training camp and the first two months of the regular season, Babcock said he expected an even slower start from Nylander.
"If you don't come to training camp and you don't start the year, I mean there was business to be done and he got his business done but now the business to be done is to get up and running," Babcock said Wednesday. "Getting frustrated with yourself or disappointed or whatever words you want is just a total waste of energy. Get excited you're playing in the National Hockey League, get to work and fight your way back. Nobody is surprised, nobody. I'm not concerned about it. Dig in and get playing."