William Nylander admits to joking about how bad he's been defensively this season

Published April 15, 2022 at 7:25 PM
BY MIKE ARMENTI
Three Maple Leafs on three separate lines each recorded a pair of goals on Thursday evening against the Caps, with Michael Bunting, Ilya Mikheyev and William Nylander all seeming to be feeling it.

For Bunting, his goals snapped a 17-game goal scoring drought and got the proverbial monkey off of his back. For Mikheyev, his pair of tallies were important, as the Russian winger is still trying to establish himself as a bona-fide top-6 forward. Nylander's two goals were his 29th and 30th of the season to push him to the 30-goal threshold for the second time in his last 3 seasons.

Nylander started off the season red hot, leading the Leafs in points for much of the early stages of the season. The 25-year-old has had a career year for the Leafs, performing at a near point-per-game pace with 71 points in 73 games, but has seen his role diminish from first line RW to start the season, to second line RW for the vast majority of the time and now down to a third line role. This is mostly due to his lackluster efforts on the back check, his unwillingness to play in the dirty areas and not finishing his checks when he has the opportunity.

For a lot of fans across Leafs Nation, Nylander's inconsistent play on both sides of the puck has been frustrating, with a lot of people over the years speculating that the Leafs would be better off trading him. That sort of dialogue can mess with a player's head. Social media is a powerful tool, but it can also be a detriment to a player's confidence if they're too focused on it.


Thankfully for Nylander, he doesn't take anything too seriously. He revealed on Friday that he even jokes with his teammates about his underwhelming two-way play.

"I joke with some of the guys, I say if you guys want a minus, come play with me."

Call me crazy, Willy - but I don't think you're going to win anyone over by joking about how bad your defensive game has been..

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