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World Championship

Nylander using Worlds as start to better future with Maple Leafs

Forward focused on learning, improving from disappointing 27-point season

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- William Nylander is looking to learn from a difficult season on and off the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His first step in that process is playing for Sweden at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.

Nylander, who had three points (one goal, two assists) in Toronto's seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference First Round, said there was no hesitation about playing in the tournament despite the disappointing end to his NHL season.

"I've had so much time off," Nylander said. "I'm ready to go right now."

Time off is something Nylander had too much of this season. The forward missed Toronto's first 28 games after not agreeing to terms on a contract until just before the 5 p.m. ET deadline Dec. 1 that allowed him to play in the NHL in 2018-19.

A restricted free agent, his six-year contract had an average annual value of $10.2 million this season and has an AAV of $6.9 million in years 2-6.

Nylander earned that contract after he was third on the Maple Leafs with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists) in 2017-18, but after making his debut Dec. 6, he had 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 54 games this season.

For Nylander, his struggles are part of his learning experience.

"Of course," he said. "It happens all the time to every player."

Now, he is focused on rediscovering his game and believes the World Championship will help in that regard. 

He's had success at the tournament in the past. He was named the most valuable player of the 2017 World Championship after he had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 10 games to help Sweden win the gold medal.

Through three games this year, he leads the tournament with eight points (two goals, six assists).

"You can come here and work on aspects of your game and try to get better," Nylander said. "It's a fun tournament to come play. Representing your country is always special. I enjoy coming here. We have a fun group of guys. It's fun."

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