The scenarios I’m devising to which William Nylander falls to the Vancouver Canucks are much like an England fan devises ways the Three Lions could advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup despite losing both their first two games.
“Well, you get the two Sams off the board, and also Aaron Ekblad, maybe Florida take him? And maybe the Oilers reach on a defenceman like Haydn Fleury, and, uh, Brian Burke likes Nick Ritchie, yes? There!”
It’s a wildly plausible scenario and not at all likely to result in heartbreak. Nylander is our third-ranked prospect, but probably the most exciting player in the draft.
WILLIAM NYLANDER – MoDo (SHL)
Weight: 181 lbs
Birthdate: May 1 1996
Nylander’s scouting report sounds like critics blurbing for a Michael Bay movie. “Extremely skilled” “dynamic” “quick hands and feet” and the kicker from Corey Pronman “may be the most gifted pure offensive talent in the draft”:
Nylander’s pucks skills are elite, as he can be described as “an artist” by some scouts in terms of how well he controls the puck, and the unique plays he makes. Nylander’s hockey sense is fantastic as well, in terms of his vision, and offensive intellect. You combine that with a pretty good top gear and Nylander can create all sorts of havoc offensively.
There may be two better players in this draft, but arguably neither can bring to the table what Nylander can offensively, which is what makes the young Swede so attractive to Canucks fans as a potential pick. The Canucks have always seemed to lack that top-end forward prospect, and he’s a guy who can generate excitement among the fan base and make a god-awful team from 2013-2014 (if you listen to the podcast, it becomes clear that I tuned out for the final three quarters of the season) somewhat interesting to watch.
Willy Nylander, the son of former offensive mercenary (that sounds better than ‘journeyman’) Michael Nylander, recorded points (27 in 35 games) playing in the Allsvenskan league against men, and diced competition his own age group at the U-18s. In seven games this spring at the international tournament, Nylander led with 16 points, five more than his closest competition, who happened to be linemate Axel Holmstrom. All told, in U-18 competitions, Nylander scored 25 points in 14 games.
Also, from what it sounds like, Nylander isn’t locked into any deal in Sweden, meaning he can come over and play in the NHL or AHL right away:
Nylander said he isn’t tied into a contract with any team in Sweden, so he is open to doing whatever is necessary to begin his professional career in North America in 2014-15.
“My goal is to do whatever I need to do to earn a spot,” he said. “I like to create scoring chances and score goals.”
Note that Willy didn’t say “I want to do whatever I can to help the team win.” There are already enough players like that in North America. What makes Nylander so intriguing as a potential Vancouver Canuck is that he doesn’t seem to have forgotten that hockey should be about fun more than it should be about winning and losing.
Here is a video of Nylander’s Allsvenskan hat-trick back in January, when he was on loan to Sodertalje. Making a cameo appearance is another top European prospect David Pastrnak, who actually led the team in scoring because Nylander bounced around between three club teams a year ago: