As much as the Maple Leafs like the progress William Nylander is making this season, patience remains the operative word.
“If he is ready next year, then great, we would love to have him,” Leafs general manager David Nonis said.
“If not, that’s not a problem either. The expectation of ours is he is going to work on his all-around game, he is going to work on the things that don’t come naturally to him.”
That has been happening in the Swedish Hockey League. Nylander, the eighth pick overall by the Leafs last June, has 19 points in 19 games with Modo. For the Leafs, though, there is more to what Nylander has been doing.
“He is stopping on pucks more than he is used to, and I think that is still part of his game he needs to work on. In terms of being able to play against men at a high level and produce, he has done it very well.”
Nylander, averaging 19 minutes three seconds of ice time a game, has eight goals and 11 assists, good for 24th in league scoring.
“It is a hard league to score in,” Nonis said. “They lock it down pretty good. The notion it is a big sheet makes it easier to score is not true. He has done a good job. His goals and points have not all been on the power play, which is something you look for. He is producing some five on five against some pretty good teams.
“He has done what we hoped he was going to do and speaking with his coaches, they are happy with his work ethic and how he has fit in.”
Nylander is one of three Leafs prospects expected to play in the 2015 world junior in Montreal and Toronto. Centre Frederik Gauthier with Canada and defenceman Rinat Valiev for Russia also are in the mix.
“They are going to have a good team,” Nonis said of Sweden. “What we want to see is (Nylander) to fit into that team. I think there will be some pressure on him because of where the tournament is, for him to try to do too much. If he does what he is capable of doing and fits in with his linemates and teammates, he is going to have a very good tournament.”
As for Gauthier? The Leafs’ first-rounder in 2013, 21st overall, is looking to play for Canada for a second consecutive winter.
“His pace has picked up, his skating has improved,” Nonis said.
“With Freddy, he has always been a guy who thinks defence first, which is actually quite admirable, and that has got him to where he is today. Then you have to start adding some offence. He is capable of that. If he can mix that in with the solid defensive play, hopefully he is able to stick with the team.
“Most players want to score, with Freddy, he would like to keep it out of his net first and then see if he can score secondary. He is capable putting up some points.”
In 15 games with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since returning from a rib injury, Gauthier has 14 points (eight goals and six assists).
Valiev has recovered from a knee injury and has 25 points (five goals and 20 assists) in 23 games for Kootenay of the Western Hockey League.
“He has a pretty high ceiling,” Nonis said. “He has a lot of work to do as well and he is still raw in a lot of ways. Hopefully he sticks with Russia because I think he could be a factor.”
About "Terry Koshan"
The 2011 CFL season marks Terry Koshan's fourth year on the Argonauts beat after several years covering the Maple Leafs, though he has kept a finger in that pie during the past few winters. Koshan has been working in the Sun sports department since September 1996. He has covered various sporting events, among them kick-boxing in Vaughan (where he was told to sit no closer than 10 rows to the ring, lest he be splashed by flying blood) the world junior hockey championship (watching Jonathan Toews' shootout tricks against the U.S. in Sweden in 2007 was a treat) and the Maple Leafs in St. John's, Nfld. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a Master of Arts in journalism, Koshan lives in Georgetown, Ont.
As much as the Maple Leafs like the progress William Nylander is making this season, patience remains the operative word.
ST. CATHARINES — Curtis Lazar will get an opportunity to fulfill a wish that he made almost a year ago.
Hockey Canada got some good news from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, as the National Hockey League club announced the 19-year-old forward is on his way to help Canada try to end its five-year gold drought at the world junior championship.
This was Lazar last January in Malmo, Sweden, after Canada finished fourth in the 2014 tournament: “I want to lead. If I’m in this tournament again next year, I want to bring out all the details. If you have a couple of bad shifts, you’re not going to make a difference in the game and ultimately the tournament.”
And this was Lazar to reporters on Thursday in Ottawa: “What I can get from this tournament depends on what I put into it. I’m going to put my heart and soul into that team, and hopefully I can bring that momentum back here to Ottawa.
Naturally, Hockey Canada is thrilled that Lazar will wear red and white again at the 2015 world junior in Montreal and Toronto.
“He is a winner, first of all,” Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations Scott Salmond said.
“He has won with his club team (a Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League last May). He is a leader. He has experience in the National Hockey League.
“He is a big piece of the puzzle, but he is a piece. He will come in here hopefully with a lot of confidence and a lot of experience of having been here last year. We expect him to be a leader, and we expect he is going to give our group a boost.”
Lazar will join his Canada teammates on Friday, but will not play that night in an exhibition game against Russia at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Word that the Sens are loaning him began to spread among the Canadian players as they practised at the Meridian Centre. Defenceman Josh Morrissey was a teammate of Lazar last winter in Malmo.
“Curtis brings everything, really,” Morrissey said. “He is an all-around player, he brings a lot to our team on the ice with his skills, and ability, but off the ice he brings tremendous leadership, he is a hard-working honest guy.
“It is pretty hard to find a guy smiling more than Curtis does. I have got to know him pretty well and it is always fun being around him, he is always bringing the group up and he is more than a welcome addition to this roster.”
With Lazar, Canada has seven returning players from last year, including Morrissey, goalie Zach Fucale and forwards Sam Reinhart, Connor McDavid, Nic Petan and Frederik Gauthier.
Lazar’s presence is a boost with news coming three days ago that the Vancouver Canucks would not loan forward Bo Horvat.
Canada earlier got forward Anthony Duclair from the New York Rangers, but were denied Jonathan Drouin by the Tampa Bay Lightning. There never was a chance Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon nor Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad was going to be available.
Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett was out of the running after he suffered a shoulder injury.
Lazar had seven points (three goals and four assists) in seven games for Canada, the third-most on the team, in the world junior last winter. He should take some heat off the expectations for 17-year-old phenom Connor McDavid.
Whether Lazar fits on the Canada roster as a centre or a winger remains uncertain.
“We’re not there yet in first line, second line, third line,” coach Benoit Groulx said. “I think we have many good forwards. We’ll see how it plays out. We’re not (there) in terms of lines, but one thing I know: He’s a major asset for our team.”
Lazar’s addition means three forwards will be cut. Forwards on the bubble include Jason Dickinson, Rourke Chartier, Michael Dal Colle and Lawson Crouse. There is no guarantee, either, for Gauthier despite his status as a returning player.
“I don’t think my spot is earned right now,” Gauthier said.
McDavid, meanwhile, said “I would think so” when he was asked if could play on Sunday when Canada meets Sweden in Ottawa in an exhibition game. That has been the target date for McDavid’s return to the roster from a broken bone in his right hand.
McDavid, Nic Petan and defenceman Joe Hicketts will not play against Russia. Fucale will start in goal.
The expectations are clear for Frederik Gauthier in Canada’s selection camp.
“Freddy is a big man, he has to skate and he has to get involved,” Canada coach Benoit Groulx said on Saturday.
“We don’t want him to be only a checker or a (penalty killer). We want him to be a three-zone player. He has to have a presence on the forecheck. He has to have a presence in the corners, in front of their net, not only in our zone. It is something he has to do.
“He has been very solid defensively. I think he has to bring a little more offence to his game.”
That has been a bit of a knock on Gauthier, the 21st pick overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2013 NHL draft. Gauthier isn’t going to dazzle you when he has the puck on his stick, but he has been a good provider for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Gauthier has 14 points (eight goals and six assists) in 15 games this season after recovering from a rib injury. In 131 regular-season games with Rimouski in his junior career, Gauthier has 126 points (48 goals and 78 assists).
With Canada in the world junior a year ago, Gauthier was misused early by coach Brent Sutter, playing the wing. Once Gauthier was put back at centre, he made a positive impact, and won 25 of 40 draws he took. Canada also likes what the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Gauthier brings on the penalty kill.
“I want to be part of the offence, not only defensive,” Gauthier said. “I haven’t played every game (because of the injury), so maybe I have some more energy. I’m excited, there is stress, but I think that will help me.”
On Saturday night against the select team of university players, Gauthier will be in the middle between Anaheim Ducks prospect Nick Ritchie and Vancouver Canucks pick Jake Virtanen.
Circle Dec. 21 on your calendar, and if you’re in Ottawa, buy a ticket for the hockey game at the Canadian Tire Centre that night.
The cast on Connor McDavid’s right hand was removed on Tuesday, and Hockey Canada is looking at Canada’s exhibition game against Sweden in the nation’s capital as McDavid’s debut.
“He is on track and he is probably a little bit ahead of where everyone thought he would be,” Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey operations Scott Salmond said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“I think coming out of Toronto he will be ready to practice full on and we are probably targeting around the 21st for his first exhibition game, which would be great.”
McDavid has been out of action since Nov. 11, when he broke a bone in his right hand during a fight. The Erie Otters superstar and probable No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL draft suffered the injury as he scrapped with Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads.
In 18 games with the Otters this season, McDavid has 16 goals and 35 assists.
Earlier Tuesday, Hockey Canada received word that the New York Rangers will loan forward Anthony Duclair for the 2015 world junior, a move that immediately bolsters Canada’s top six. Duclair will be on the ice when Canada’s selection camp starts on Thursday at the MasterCard Centre.
Further good news is that talks continue with the respective NHL clubs of forwards Curtis Lazar, Jonathan Drouin and Bo Horvat. None of the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning nor the Vancouver Canucks have told Hockey Canada those players will not be loaned for the tournament.
The cutoff date is Dec. 19, when the NHL holiday roster freeze goes into effect.
“There is not a no yet and to me, that is good,” Salmond said. “In fairness to those teams, they are considering and they are concerned possibly about injuries, so I think they want to take as much time as they can. We’re still hopeful. We’ll see what happens.”
Bo Horvat will play in front of no less than 40 family and friends on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Will the 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks centre — who will face the Maple Leafs for the first time in what should be a long NHL career — be doing the same during the first week of January?
There remains the possibility Horvat could be loaned by the Canucks to Hockey Canada for the 2015 world junior championship. Canada will play its preliminary-round games in Montreal, with the medal round to follow at the ACC.
Horvat played for Canada last winter when it finished fourth at the world junior in Malmo, Sweden. His savvy is an asset Canada would covet, and coach Benoit Groulx would love to have Horvat in the lineup.
Horvat hasn’t been told one way or the other by the Canucks what the team’s plans are, but he is open to either scenario — staying put in the NHL or trying to help Canada win gold in the event for the first time since 2009.
“Still up in the air,” Horvat said. “I have not heard anything about it or what is going on. My main goal is to stay here and help this team win, but if I get that opportunity where they want me to represent my country, I will do that as well.
“Being in Montreal and Toronto, it’s going to be awesome. Playing in Sweden last year, we had tons of Canadian fans there. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like here in Toronto and Montreal.”
Others in the same situation as Horvat, where Canada is concerned, include Anthony Duclair of the New York Rangers, Jonathan Drouin of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Curtis Lazar of the Ottawa Senators. The cutoff date is Dec. 19, the day that the NHL holiday roster freeze goes into effect.
Canada’s selection camp opens on Dec. 11 in Toronto.
“It is going to be in the back of your mind, but right now I just want to focus on doing what I can here and helping the team win,” Horvat said. “If they do want to send me to the world junior, I will go. It’s entirely up to them. If I am helping the team win, hopefully I can stay up here.”
In 13 games with the Canucks, Horvat has one goal and four assists and is averaging nine minutes 45 seconds of ice time a game.
During the world junior last year, Horvat was Canada’s best faceoff man, winning 63.5% of his draws (61 of 96). He was second in the tournament, behind only Elias Lindholm of Sweden, who won faceoffs at a 65.7% clip.