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First published: http://twopadstack.net/toronto-maple-leafs-hope-prospect-william-nylander/

HOPE CAN SET YOU FREE

Ol’ Red had it right in The Shawshank Redemption when he talked about hope. “Hope?” he cynically growled. “Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no use on the inside. You’d better get used to that idea.”

That young upstart Andy Dufrane didn’t listen to Red of course, oh no. Hope would set him free! So he scratched away with that rock hammer for twenty long years until finally, crawling head-first through a tunnel of [Snip! – Profanity Ed] he emerged, arms raised in ‘V’, the sweet sensation of freedom-rain falling down his tear-stained face.

Now imagine an alternate ending. This time, instead of reaching the end of said tunnel, Andy takes a wrong turn and finds himself going around in circles, unable to find a way out of his own escape route. He keeps going, making minuscule changes to the route in the vague hope of striking lucky and finding the exit. But it’s no good. Andy is condemned to crawling through a sewer of despair forever more.

In that ending, Andy is wearing a Maple Leafs jersey.

But maybe, just maybe, there is real hope on the horizon. The younger, upstart-ier Kyle Dubas has pitched up with his iPad and faded copy of Moneyball, whispering sweet nothings in Brendan Shanahan‘s ear. And now a blond-haired, blue-eyed, Canadian-Swedish messianic angel has been sent by God his 920-NHL-game father Michael Nylander and Modo Hockey of the SHL in Sweden to be the Saviour of All Leafland™.

How the Leafs got him: Leonardo DiCaprio was selected 8th overall by the Leafs in the opening round of this year’s draft.

Comparable Leaf of the past: Nylander isn’t fully Swedish, but he’s Swedish enough to be guaranteed as the next Mats Sundin, what with being a centre, being Swedish and being a Maple Leaf. Better than being the next Rickard Wallin, I guess.

Why he might be awesome: The kid has an impressive résumé. He was selected as the Best Forward at the 2014 Under-18 World Championship after leading all players in assists (10) and points (16) in seven games. Sweden finished fourth in the tournament. He spent some time last year in the Swedish professional league with Modo, scoring 7 points in 22 games and in 2012-13 led his junior team with 43 points in 27 games.

At 5’9″ and 83kg, like all young players he needs to spend some serious time in the gym to avoid getting bounced around. The sensible thing to do would be to give him at least another year in Sweden and with Shanahan’s new super-patient approach you’d hope that’ll be the case. But this is the Leafs, so expect him to be thrown to the wolves, onto the ice and under the bus by Randy Carlyle and gently nursed back to into health by Don Cherry. As if anything could be worse.

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