Toronto Maple Leafs first-round draft pick William Nylander will not start the 2014-15 season in the NHL. The team announced Monday he will be reassigned.
Nylander will head back home to join Modo in Sweden. The 18-year-old was selected eighth overall at the 2014 NHL Draft in June and made some positive strides in his development through training camp.
“He showed that he has the skill set to play at the NHL pace in exhibition [but] he’s got to get stronger; he’s got to find a way to score on his opportunities–because he had three or four breakaways–and just to basically stay the course, not to go back [to Sweden] and think that it’s going to be easy,” Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle told reporters. “It’s going to be a tough league and he’s going to be expected to develop at a higher level and we think that that’s best for him at this stage of his career. You always caution yourself with young players; you want to make sure you’re making the decision that’s best suited for their long-term growth.”
The Leafs also placed forwards Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, plus defenceman Korbinian Holzer on waivers with the purpose of sending them down to the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Orr registered 110 penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating in 54 games last season, while McLaren had 77 penalty minutes and a minus-2 rating in 27 games. Neither registered a point.
“We believe that we have to be team tough,” Carlyle said. “Because those players are not on our list today doesn’t mean they won’t be on our list Friday or Saturday or the day after or whatever.”
Carter Ashton, Matt Frattin, Brandon Kozun and Josh Leivo, none of whom were considered locks to make the team, each made the Leafs’ 23-man roster, as did defenceman Stuart Percy.
“There was going to be opportunities for people that came in and earned them and we feel that some people have stepped to the front of the line and showed us that they’re worthy of at least starting with our hockey club,” Carlyle said. “There were some tough decisions. They’re never easy ones when you have the number of bodies that we had and the number of contracts, but we felt that we would be best suited to go in this direction.”
Kozun in particular was a player that took Leafs management by surprise with his solid pre-season performance.
“We felt that he could be a depth player, that he could give us some games because of his skill set and because he’s a very driven and tenacious player,” Nonis said. “Did we see this camp coming? No. I think everyone thought he would come in and push for a job and prove to us that he could be a good depth player, but he’s performed at a different level than we anticipated.”
Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Cody Franson and Leivo, who missed Saturday’s practice dealing with lower-body injuries, skated Monday. Franson is dealing with a bruised knee and Leivo has a bruised foot. General manager Dave Nonis told reporters it’s unlikely Franson, a projected top-six defenceman, will play in the season opener. Kessel and Bozak will be good to go despite missing the pre-season finale Friday.
Winger David Booth will begin the season on injured reserve as he recovers from a broken foot suffered when he blocked a shot in a pre-season game.
The Leafs open the regular season Wednesday at home against Atlantic Division rival Montreal Canadiens and although the team hasn’t confirmed line combinations, these were the lines at Monday’s practice.
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul – Nazem Kadri – Brandon Kozun
Leo Komarov – Mike Santorelli – David Clarkson
Daniel Winnik – Peter Holland – Matt Frattin
Dion Phaneuf – Stephane Robidas,
Jake Gardiner – Morgan Rielly
Stuart Percy – Roman Polak