Friedman: Nylander, Kapanen should stay in NHL if merited

William Nylander was all smiles after the game despite the loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, stating how much fun he had in his NHL debut and the experience he gained from it.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks the Toronto Maple Leafs should keep star prospects William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen in the NHL only if their performance merits it.

Friedman appeared on Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Dean Blundell & Co. Friday morning, and says he doesn’t have an issue if they stay past the 10-game mark with the Leafs — when a year is burned off their entry level contracts — so long as their performance is worthy enough.

“It was pretty clear the other night after the game in Washington that Babcock was not happy with either of them and he called them out,” said Friedman. “And if he gets seven more games like that, I don’t have a problem with him sending them back down.”

Listen Now: Elliotte Friedman on Dean Blundell & Co.

The detail that sticks out for Friedman that should be of concern for Toronto is when either player reaches 40 NHL games played — when issues of free agency and arbitration arise.

Nylander, 19, has been scoreless in three games with seven shots on goal so far this season with the Maple Leafs. He had 18 shifts and 15:38 in time on ice in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Kapenen has also played three games for Toronto and has yet to find the back of the net. The 19-year-old Finn has four shots on goal in those three matchups.

Friedman pointed towards Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs as an example of why service time shouldn’t be overshadowed by performance when it comes to prospects.

“I think, over time, that kind of decision bites you,” said Friedman. “These are decisions that you should be able to make on merit, and if those two players clearly show they’re not ready for an extended stretch in the NHL now, send them back down.”

“If you’re making decisions for contracts, I think in the long term, organizations don’t win.”