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Nylander ready to 'dominate' for Maple Leafs this season

Forward determined to reach new heights after contract delay in 2018-19

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

STOCKHOLM -- William Nylander said he is ready to become one of the elite players in the NHL this season.

"I'm looking forward to this season to dominate," the Toronto Maple Leafs forward said during the NHL European Player Media Tour on Thursday. "I very much believe in myself and I know what I'm capable of, so I'm not really worried about proving anything. I'm ready to take that next step.

"This season I'm excited to show I'm a dominant player in the NHL. That's what I've worked towards every summer. This summer hasn't been different. Working towards becoming a better player every time."

Nylander is so confident in his abilities he used the word dominate five times during his 15-minute session with NHL.com. He also said the Maple Leafs, who have been eliminated from the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past three seasons, are ready to take the next step as well.

"We're the only ones who can stop ourselves," he said. "I feel like we as a team are ready to take a step in the next direction."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm1: Nylander goes five-hole on breakaway

Whether Nylander and the Maple Leafs will be able to back up the bold talk remains to be seen, especially after a roller-coaster 2018-19 season.

Nylander, who has 162 points (55 goals, 107 assists) in 239 NHL games, missed the first 28 games last season as a restricted free agent. He agreed to terms with the Maple Leafs on a six-year contract with an average annual value of $6.9 million on Dec. 1.

He didn't score his first goal until his 12th game (a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 3) and finished the season with 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 54 games. It was his lowest point total since he had 13 (six goals, seven assists) in 22 games as a rookie in 2015-16.

"(The struggles) were a combination of everything," the 23-year-old said. "Maybe coming in late, my feel for goal scoring was just a little bit off. It's just how it works. There is nothing to blame it on. What happened, happened.

"I don't have any problems with what happened (in negotiations). Obviously both sides wanted it to be done earlier, that's one thing. But it went how it went. I guess Toronto's not upset about it and I'm not upset about it. I'm looking forward to this season to dominate."

Nylander said he spoke with coach Mike Babcock last week but said the subject of line combinations never came up. He said he hopes to be reunited with center Auston Matthews.

"Of course," he said. "We've had great chemistry in the past and we've been able to find each other out there. I feel I'm ready to have a huge step in my NHL career, so I think we'd do just fine together."

Video: MIN@TOR: Nylander nets his first goal of the season

The Maple Leafs were 46-28-8 and finished third in the Atlantic Division before being eliminated in seven games to the Boston Bruins for a second straight season, this time losing Games 6 and 7. Nylander said this season will be different.

"As a team, we're all very hungry," he said. "Like I said, we're all ready to take the next step."

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