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Leafs’ prospect WIlliam Nylander developing his defensive game

IIHF hockey, Czech vs Sweden

IIHF hockey, Czech vs Sweden

Toronto Star via Getty Images

It’s been three months since the Toronto Maple Leafs and its’ fans saw William Nylander on North American ice at the club’s training camp and the 18-year-old feels his game has matured.

Nylander, selected 8th overall by the Leafs last June, has has eight goals and 19 points in 19 games with Modo of the SHL. He’s second on his team in scoring behind a 36-year-old.

“I think its gotten better. I’ve gotten stronger (and) quicker, I think, on the ice,” Nylander said of his game. “I’m a little bit more mature in the way I play.”

Nylander and his Swedish teammates went a perfect 4-0-0 in the preliminary round of the world junior hockey championship in Toronto.

The son of former NHLer, Michael Nylander, William is tied with teammate Oskar Lindblom, a Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect, for second place in tournament scoring having registered two goals and five assists heading into Friday’s quarterfinal matchup with Finland.

Nylander says a move to center has made him more defensively aware.

“Playing center you’ve got a bigger role in the defensive zone,” he said. “Part of that has helped me develop the defensive game better, which I think is good.”

The Leafs have no plans to rush the prospect to the NHL.

“We’re going to take a patient approach,” Dave Morrison, the Leafs’ director of amateur scouting, told The National Post. “If he’s ready, then he’s ready. And if he’s not, then he’s not. He’ll have to keep developing. This is a good experience for him to get used to Toronto and see what it’s like.”

Nylander’s play at the Under-20 tournament has Leafs fans excited to see what he can do once ready for the NHL game.

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