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William Nylander Drafted by Maple Leafs: Latest News, Reaction and Analysis

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 31:  Prospect William Nylander takes part in testing during the NHL Combine May 31, 2014 at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2014

William Nylander is the newest member of the Toronto Maple Leaf's organization after the team selected him with the eighth overall selection in the 2014 NHL draft, the league indicated.

Nylander is one of the most offensively gifted players in the class. He combines speed and vision with great touch around the net and a quick release. He's also displayed good playmaking ability to round out his offensive skill set.

The 18-year-old right winger, who's also capable of playing center, is the son of longtime NHL player Michael Nylander. The duo actually got a chance to play alongside each other in Sweden this season during one of four different stops the younger Nylander made.

Mike Morreale of NHL.com passed along comments from the top prospect, who enjoyed the experience and joked about being so close to a linemate:

It was fun and we were on the same line. I would sometimes pass to him and he would miss the open net and he would pass to me and I'd miss the net and we'd get mad at each other, but it was fun. We talked about hockey stuff all night.

While his father was a very reliable asset over a long period of time, Nylander has a chance to become a truly game-changing offensive player. He doesn't have the same type of well-rounded game as some of his fellow top picks, but his scoring potential is sky-high.

Brendan Ross of McKeen's Hockey points to hockey sense as one of the rising star's main attributes:

The biggest question mark surrounds his defensive ability and effort. It's possible to make a major impact without being sound on your own end—Alexander Ovechkin has proven that—but it takes a special talent in order to do so.

Nylander hasn't showcased anywhere near the same level of talent in defending as he has on the attack. It's something he must work on in the coming years, even if it means becoming just serviceable on the back check.

If he can do that, his offensive game should take care of the rest. And that's what the front office is betting on by taking him with an early pick. The scoring upside outweighs the risks associated with his play at the other end of the ice.

The hope is, with a couple of more years of development, he'll be ready to play top-six minutes without the coaching staff having to worry about playing him during crunch time.

In other words, there's some work to do, but Nylander's upside is enormous.

 

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