William ‘Willie’ Nylander was a polarizing draft choice for the Toronto Maple Leafs at No. 8 overall last June. Some, myself included, praised the pick because of Nylander’s high ceiling. Others slammed the Leafs for grabbing King Joffrey on skates, a slick-stickhandling boy-man whose body would not hold up the NHL level. That latter group likely wanted a Nick Ritchie type at No. 8.
So far, score one for the Nylander backers.
Yes, the fact he returned to the Swedish League to re-sign with Modo suggested he was far from NHL-ready. He flashed skill but didn’t show enough strength to play for the Leafs, and they didn’t want to tempt themselves by keeping him with the American League’s Marlies, from which they could easily rush him to the big club. But he’s been nothing short of spectacular in the SHL, where his primary goal was to bulk up. A tweet from Domenic Galamini suggested Nylander’s 14 points through 10 games as an 18-year-old put him in elite company. Digging through the SHL’s complete records reveals that Nylander averages more points per game than anyone in Swedish League history during an age-18 season. He’s at 1.4, and the next closest finished at 1.00, meaning he’ll challenge for the record even if he regresses.
It was a glorious weekend of Michigan hockey for me, as I took a road trip to Ann Arbor to take in games featuring the National Team Development Program (NTDP) and University of Michigan. The NTDP got two wins over United States League opponents while the Wolverines capped off a weekend sweep of American International on Saturday. All three games gave me a great look at some top prospects and here are a few of them below, plus more kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day.
Yost Arena in Ann Arbor can be a fun place to play. With nine minutes to go before the game starts, the fans at the University of Michigan rink begin to sing the Canadian national anthem, even though only three Canucks are in the lineup that night. They even have a Maize and Blue-colored Canadian flag. The locals had a Texas flag when Chris Brown (now with Washington) skated there and New York Rangers speedster Carl Hagelin got a Swedish flag. Hagelin, who captained the Wolverines in his junior year, made such an impact that the team all signed that flag for him and the pep band learned Sweden’s anthem for his final game.
But with success comes attrition and after making the NCAA tournament for more than two decades without missing, the Wolverines have been left at home the past two seasons. If they hope to return to the promised land, they’re going to do it with youth.
By Marty Hastings
Like any NHL prospect, Tim Bozon spent his off-season training hard for 2014-15. This summer, however, the road to a new season has been particularly long for the 20-year-old third-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens.
After all, it wasn’t until June that he skated for the first time since falling ill in March and losing nearly a quarter of his bodyweight. His mother, Hélène, brought an iPad to the rink to film his return to the ice. “If you think about three months ago, when he was laying down like a dead boy,” she said, “if someone told you he could be on the ice in June, probably I would not believe them.” Read more
When Steve Yzerman took the reins as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he said there would be no easy fixes and that creating a perennial contender was the long-term goal. Yzerman wasn’t thinking Stanley Cup. No, he was thinking Stanley Cups – plural.
It’s not surprising that was, and is, how Yzerman looked at things, especially considering where he was coming from. A career Detroit Red Wing, Yzerman was part of the process of turning the Red Wings from basement team to perennial Stanley Cup contender during his playing days. Read more
OK, so there’s a very good chance that Connor McDavid will be available to Canada for the world juniors this December: McPocalypse Now has been averted. The timeline for healing his broken hand is five to six weeks and the world juniors start in six weeks. So what can we expect from the gifted center?
The CHL-Russia Super Series kicked off in Saskatoon Monday night and the visitors continued their hot streak by winning 3-2 in a shootout over the Western League’s squad. The six-game showdown usually starts in Quebec and goes West, but things are flipped this time and will be interesting to see if that affects the results at all. In other news, top 2015 Swedish prospect Oliver Kylington was loaned out to AIK in the country’s second-tier league, the Allsvenskan, where he will get more playing time. Here’s a look at some of the other youngsters we’re keeping an eye on.
The Quinnipiac Bobcats stonewalled Cornell 1-0 on the weekend and even though Big Red coach Mike Schafer did touch on the lack of scoring from his team in the loss, it was far from his first topic of conversation in the post-game interview. No, Schafer was much more fired up about Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold: