William Nylander shares thoughts on new 3rd line assignment for Leafs

Cody Craig
April 6, 2024  (7:34 PM)

William Nylander focused on the ice
Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For Toronto Maple Leafs superstar William Nylander, it's been a career year thus far playing in the top six. However, a lineup shuffle this week has landed him a pair of new linemates in Matthew Knies and Pontus Holmberg.

Nylander was all smiles when asked about Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe's decision to shift him down to the 3rd line ahead of Saturday's game against the Montréal Canadiens, almost as if he was anticipating the question from the media.
"Sheldon [Keefe] talked to me about it the past couple of days, about what he was thinking and I just said lets get trying it so we're ready for the playoffs by the time that comes. I felt pretty good in practice. We're creating a lot of chances and had some nice chemistry so I think that's important. They've been playing great all year so hopefully we'll match together pretty well."

Nylander, as you may or may not be aware, has spent time this season with each of Knies and Holmberg at different points. This is beneficial, because Nylander and his new linemates may have some pre-existing chemistry to draw from tonight.
There are a few things that have really stood out to Nylander about new linemate Pontus Holmberg. When asked what stands out most to him about Holmberg, Nylander was quick to point out that he's a very intelligent player.
"He's just incredibly smart with the puck and putting himself in good positions without the puck to get the puck back. Those small things I think people might not notice and obviously he's very talented too."

For Sheldon Keefe, the idea to drop Nylander to the 3rd line was for the purpose of spreading out his offense and creating some nightmare matchups for the opposition. Nylander had been a staple in the top six for most of the season, but when you've got Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander on separate lines to deal with, you can imagine that opposing coaches are going to have some trouble shutting each of them down. In that sense, I can see the logic behind the move. It's even better that Nylander is on board with it.
While some would have assumed that Nylander would be discouraged to be losing his spot in the top six, the reality couldn't be more the opposite. Nylander is thrilled to have Marner back with the group because of what it means for the team's struggling power play.
"Nice to get our powerplay unit back together, so that's fun. He creates a lot of opportunities, opens up plays, seams and scores goals so it makes another threat for the PK to worry about."
-Nylander on Marner's return

During the media session, Nylander was also asked about passing the great Mats Sundin for most points in a season by a Swedish player in franchise history. Sundin was the previous record-holder with 94 points back in 1996-97. Nylander, with his 95th point this week, is now the all-time franchise leader in that category. More than anything else Nylander just wished to express how honoured he was to pass Mats Sundin, a player that he looks up to very much.
"It's really cool. Mats Sundin, incredible legend for a Swedish guy and Leafs player so that's great and special, but I wouldn't have been able to do it without my teammates and hopefully I keep going. Just an incredible guy. I remember being a kid and the summer skates that my dad would go to, he'd be there and he was just a great guy."

Now at 217 career NHL goals, Nylander has officially passed his father, Michael Nylander, in goals recently as well. The elder Nylander had scored 209 goals during his 920-game NHL career, which ended back in 2009. Nylander was asked about passing his father in goals and whether or not he rubbed it in at all. A smirking Nylander implied that he didn't even have to.
"I think he expected that"

Teammate Mitch Marner has been one of Samsonov's biggest supporters this season and even went to bat for his goaltender during a recent media session, calling out reporters for their treatment of Samsonov earlier this year. On Friday, Nylander also had some thoughts on Samsonov's turnaround this year.
"Incredible perseverance, he's done an incredible job. Coming from a tough start, struggling for quite a while and then coming back and being an incredible goalie. One of the best in the league I think, so it's been a pretty big step."

With Nylander and the Leafs having already locked up a playoff spot, it will be interesting to see how Sheldon Keefe manages his workload moving forward. With 100 points a legitimate possibility, it would be nice to see Nylander hit that milestone before taking off any games for rest, but I'm sure Keefe's priority is to ensure that the Leafs enter the postseason as healthy as possible, which likely means rest for all of his starts, Nylander among them.
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William Nylander shares thoughts on new 3rd line assignment for Leafs

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