Maple Leafs’ William Nylander ‘excited’ for NHL debut

Leafs coach Mike Babcock talks about coaching a young team and what he is looking for from the young prospects.

William Nylander is excited to make his NHL debut Monday night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ 2014 first-round pick was called up from the AHL Marlies, just in time to face Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Air Canada Centre.

Nylander, 19, has been lighting up the American League, scoring 45 points in 37 games — good for top-10 in AHL scoring.

“It was tough to get a couple hours of sleep last night. You’re just excited and getting ready for tonight,” Nylander told reporters after the morning skate. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it unfolds.”

The Leafs also recalled forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman, and Ben Smith.

Forwards Mark Arcobello, Brendan Leipsic and Josh Leivo were loaned to the Marlies.

“I want to know who is a real player. Just because you did it in the American League doesn’t mean you’re going to do it here. I want to know who has upside and who has hockey sense and who has determination and who lives right,” head coach Mike Babcock told reporters Monday. “You watch them, they’re exciting. But they’re also kids.”

Kapenen, who scored Finland’s golden goal at the 2016 world junior championship, has put up eight goals and 14 assists for the Marlies. The 19-year-old was acquired via trade from Pittsburgh in July. He was drafted by the Penguins in the first round (22nd overall) in 2014.

Soshnikov has skated in 50 games with the Marlies this season, registering 28 points (18 goals, 10 assists). The 22-year-old, who is tied for third with the Marlies in goals, was signed as a free agent by Toronto in March.

Hyman has played in 54 games for the Marlies this season, recording 13 goals and 20 assists for 33 points. The 23-year-old was named the University of Michigan’s Athlete of the Year in his senior year (2014-15) while also being named a First Team All-American and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Hyman, who was acquired via trade from Florida in June, was drafted by the Panthers in the fifth round in 2010.

Smith, 27, was acquired via trade from San Jose on Feb. 27. He has split this season between the Sharks and Barracuda. In 181 NHL games between San Jose and the Chicago Blackhawks, Smith has recorded 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 career points.

The forwards participated in the morning skate, are expected to be returned to the Marlies by 3 p.m. ET in order to qualify for the AHL playoffs, then be made available to Toronto for the Lightning game.

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