William Nylander is raising the ceiling of what he can be for the Leafs

William Nylander dotted the scoreboard with two assists last week against Edmonton. The moment that really seemed to symbolize his elevation this season for the Maple Leafs, however, came with just over one minute left in regulation.

It had nothing to do with scoring.

The Leafs were protecting a one-goal lead when the Oilers called timeout before a faceoff in the Toronto zone.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe had a full stable of forwards to choose from to keep the lead intact. He opted for Nylander, who helped nail down the win alongside Alex Kerfoot and John Tavares.

“His skill set is always going to allow him opportunities to put up points,” Keefe said of Nylander. “The thing with Willy, he’s expanding his game, and I’ve been wanting to give him opportunities to expand his game this season.”

Nylander’s success in an expanded role this season has raised the ceiling of what’s possible for him with the Leafs — in 2022 and beyond. It’s made him an even more valuable asset under a slowly growing salary cap and has seen him emerge, more than ever before, from the shadow of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

“I’ve really liked a lot of things that Willy has done for us throughout the season,” Keefe said, “not just the points.”

Offensive expansion

We will start with the points and offence, because even that side of his game has grown this year.


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