Rambling about Toronto prospect Nylander, as well as young NHLers Pastrnak, Wennberg and Draisaitl
After weeks of speculation since his injury in the tournament, William Nylander has returned to practice in a non-contact capacity with his Toronto Marlies teammates. The extent of one’s head-related injuries very much varies from case to case but it helps Nylander’s (and the Leafs’) chances that they’re exercising caution from the first concussion rather than waiting to the third or fourth concussion to start taking the matter seriously like unfortunate cases in the past.
One can’t help but wonder if a gold medal was within Team Sweden’s grasp if he played the whole tournament as planned, especially with the number of older, 1996 born players on the roster. Given the lead the Toronto Marlies have in the AHL standings they can afford to give Nylander time to find his sea legs to ensure he’s ready to contribute to a deep run at the Calder Cup. A strong showing in the AHL playoffs ought to move him even higher up the fantasy hockey draft day rankings this fall should he be able to promptly return to form. Soon enough he’ll be showing the pro hockey world once again that there can only be one Nylander. (At least until next season)
Speaking of the World Juniors, it seems that the lending of his services to Team Czech Republic as well as the demotion in the Bruin rotation from Coach Julien have served David Pastrnak well as a wake-up call. He’s got five points over his last six games and has the makings of a real force both long-term and in the stretch run while trying to make the fantasy hockey playoffs for those needing a scoring depth winger. He makes for an intriguing and reasonably affordable buy-low candidate for those hoping to turn their fantasy hockey fortunes around. The recent return to the lineup for David Krejci can only help his production once he gets back to his usual line assignment and deployment.
Though not as far along in his development, there’s a good amount of Johnny Gaudreau in his approach to the game. He’s a quick, elusive talent with better finishing ability than Gaudreau at the same stage of his competitive hockey career. At 25th overall in the 2014 NHL draft, it’s safe to say that Pastrnak has been outperforming his draft position despite the early-season struggles with his health and his turnover prone play. Once he curtails the giveaways to the opposition, he’ll be a lethal presence in the open-ice particularly in overtime where he’ll have a less crowded platform to work his magic on.
In light of the blockbuster Johansen-Jones trade that was made earlier this month, the secondary beneficiary of the trade could end up being Blue Jackets pivot Alex Wennberg. He’s now getting consistent top-six minutes with the departure of touted forward Ryan Johansen playing second fiddle only to Brandon Dubinsky, a player whom Coach Tortorella has been a long-time advocate for.
Wennberg has been known to be a conservative two-way forward that’s reliable to make the correct play but there’s room for more offensive production once he gets better acquainted with Tortorella’s system as well as his new role. His attention to detail on the back-end should serve him well when it comes to staying the coach’s good books. He has the tools to grow into his newly obtained role as a scoring-line center or become a high-end, low-maintenance foundation of the bottom-six in the event Columbus get lucky in the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.
While assessing unexpected beneficiaries in light of sudden changes in the rotation, Edmonton Oilers standout Leon Draisaitl quickly comes to mind. At only 20 years of age he’s shown maturity in his game and his composure that’s beyond his years. Since a disheartening demotion he’s found a whole new level of dedication and it shows with the start he has had to the season. Though he has simmered down from his white-hot start he’s certainly atoning for his rookie campaign that saw him get sent down after 37 games where he struggled at times to adjust to the major professional pace. Even with his regression from his unsustainable pace set in the fall, his quality play makes a trade of another top-six talent much more palatable should they make a move to get some coveted help on the back end.
His ahead-of-schedule boost in production and on-ice synergy with Taylor Hall are both much needed moral victories in the midst of a floundering Oilers campaign. W