This week brings a highlight game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. Interestingly, two really good friends play on different sides of that match. Those two players are William Nylander for the Maple Leafs and David Pastrnak for the Bruins. Both are having solid seasons.
Nylander is on pace to set new career highs in goals, assists, and points. He currently leads the Maple Leafs with 28 goals and is tied with Mitch Marner for the team’s lead in points with 59. But his close friend Pastrnak is also “on fire” with the Bruins. He has totalled 38 goals and added 33 assists (for 71 points) in his 50 games played.
The two will face each other in both teams’ final game before the All-Star break and bye week on Toronto’s home ice.
Nylander Names NHL’s Second Star of the Week
Nylander was named the NHL’s second star of the week after recording seven points in four games. Despite the recognition, Nylander focuses on winning games rather than personal recognition.
On Monday, he took part in Toronto’s optional skill development practice to work on small things in his game, showing his dedication to his craft. Nylander is known for his strong work ethic, often being the first player on the ice for practices and morning skates. He’s not afraid of putting in the work to get ready and puts in extra work even during optional skill development practices.
He teammates notice. For example, Alex Kerfoot, has also noted Nylander’s dedication to being on the ice and working hard.That work ethic also does not surprise his head coach, Sheldon Keefe. Keefe admits that Nylander will find his way onto the ice even during off days to make sure he gets the practice he craves.
Ex-Maple Leafs’ Player Connor Brown Revels at Nylander’s Work Ethic
The first person who put me onto Nylander’s dedication to the game and his willingness to engage in hard work was Connor Brown. It was during an interview I heard just after Brown was traded from the Maple Leafs to the Ottawa Senators. Sadly, Brown (who was traded last July from the Senators to the Washington Capitals for a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft) has been injured and has only played four games with the Capitals this season.
However, Brown noted that Nylander was a highly-skilled player who works hard on his skills. He often arrives at the rink early to spend extra time on the ice. He’s on the ice 25 minutes before practice, stick-handling and working on his skills. According to Brown, Nylander is “probably the most laid-back guy” he’s ever met but is also someone who spends a lot of time on the ice and working on his game.
Nylander Has Elevated His Game (Especially) This Season
Nylander has elevated his play over the last two seasons, especially when Auston Matthews has been injured. In the 13 games Matthews has missed, Nylander has scored 16 points (eight goals and eight assists). The Maple Leafs are 9-4-0 in those games.
Call Nylander cocky if you will, but he considers himself among the NHL’s elite players even if he won’t be attending the 2023 NHL All-Star Game. He simply expects to perform at the elite level.
Perhaps that feeling of exclusion might push Nylander’s game further. If you’re a Maple Leafs’ fan, you can hope. For a player with Nylander’s skill, an “I’ll show you” attitude can only be more motivating.
Bring on the Bruins.