Although hockey is a fluid sport in which players are expected to play a 200-foot game, they still tend to find particular places on the ice that are near and dear to them.
Wayne Gretzky owned the back of the net to such a degree it’s still known as “Gretzky’s office,” Tomas Holmstrom made the ice just outside the crease his own, and nobody lurks for the off-wing one-timer quite like Alex Ovechkin.
Toronto Maple Leafs rookie William Nylander won’t have a piece of the rink named after him any time soon, but he does seem to have found his signature plot of real estate in recent weeks.
Nylander walks in and buries a wrister from inside the right face-off circle, showing a release that consistently draws rave reviews. The reason the goal is familiar is because he did the exact same thing in his previous game against the Columbus Blue Jackets:
This one has a different aesthetic because it’s off the rush, but it’s the same idea and the same area. And how about the next most-recent (non empty-net) Nylander goal?
You guessed it, a quick-release wrist shot from the right face-off circle right into the back of the net.
Early in the season, Nylander’s speed and skill were obvious to anyone who had a passing familiarity with the Maple Leafs, but goals proved relatively elusive.
As Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner took off, Nylander seemed like a distant No. 3 among Toronto’s rookies. Now, he’s in the midst of a franchise-record point streak and has been the best of the trio in the most crucial stretch of the Maple Leafs season.
An enormous part of that has been his shooting. In his first 36 games this season he managed just eight goals on 90 shots – good for a 8.6 shooting percentage, which is far too low for a player with his skill set. In his most recent 36 contests, he’s put away 13 on 94 shots for a healthy 13.8 percent conversion rate.
Trying to take meaning from shooting percentages can be a dangerous business as there’s a fair amount of luck involved. We are pretty limited in what we definitively know about shot quality, but it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say Nylander has a quality shot.
What he’s done during his hot streak is find a spot where he can get it off cleanly and do some damage with it. Many wingers are more potent on their off-wing, but Nylander has the advantage of carrying the puck into the offensive zone and arriving at his wheelhouse in a flash.
The Maple Leafs rookie can be dangerous wherever he is on the ice, but recently he’s found a place where he’s lethal.