Home cooking: Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander eating up AHL, looking ahead to NHL

Home cooking: Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander eating up AHL, looking ahead to NHL

Even when his dad and his brother found a place to live just outside of downtown Toronto, William Nylander had no plans to join them.

Nylander, who has played in the city for the AHL’s Marlies since January, wanted to live on his own and even started the season doing so.

But then he caved. The kitchen aromas lured him back to his family.

“I guess I cook really good food,” said Nylander’s father, Michael. “I guess he enjoys the dinners.”

The location of the place – off Lake Shore Boulevard – is close to Nylander’s other home in the city, Ricoh Coliseum.

But that wasn’t the major selling point. It was his father’s food.

The only downside is family dinners are only semi-regular. Nylander isn’t home every night when the bell rings because of hockey games.

Sometimes it doesn’t at all because Michael, a former NHL set-up man, and his other son, Alexander, a projected 2016 NHL draft pick, are busy with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads. Michael is an assistant coach and Alexander patrols right wing on the first line.

William Nylander piled up 10 points for Team Sweden at the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto. (Getty)
William Nylander piled up 10 points for Team Sweden at the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto. (Getty)

But when their schedules align, a fancy feast is bound to ensue.

Michael said his wife always put him on kitchen duty in the summertime and when he wasn’t on the road during his playing career. Having played for 10 teams across North America – seven in the NHL – Michael picked up all sorts of recipes from American to Italian and Chinese to Taiwanese cuisine. They were added to those from his native Sweden in an effort to feed his two boys and four daughters.

William Nylander counts sushi as his favourite – he loves fish – even though he notes “it’s not a time-friendly meal to cook.”

“He has variations of everything,” Nylander said. “He likes to cook so it’s lots of fun coming home and seeing what he’s got cooking. It’s hard to say what his best meal is, but it’s fun having him here and being with family.”

Whatever his dad makes for him, it’s certainly helping – Nylander was tied for the AHL scoring lead with 24 points in 19 contests.

That success has Nylander, 19, eager for a chance to join the big club. Toronto Maple Leafs fan are intrigued by the notion, too.

The Leafs drafted Nylander eighth overall in 2014 and all he has done since then is record 10 points for Sweden at the 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto and average a point per game in the minors.

He’s still learning. Nylander said he’s adjusting to playing centre under first-year AHL coach Sheldon Keefe after skating on the wing last season.

But expectations from Leafs fans are high and he knows it.

He knows it not only from living in Toronto for the past year, but because he was raised mostly in North America. Nylander and his brother were born in Calgary while his dad played for the Flames. They bounced around the United States until their dad’s 920-game NHL career ended in 2011.

“They’re like North American kids in their lifestyle or how they grew up,” said Michael, noting the boys even attended English-speaking schools while in Sweden. “It definitely is helping out to be growing up (here) and see the environment rather than just show up here from Sweden or somewhere else overseas. Some places are tougher than other places of course with the media and the surroundings. It’s a great atmosphere to play for in Toronto. It’s something that he’ll have to deal with and he has been dealing with.”

For his part, William Nylander hasn’t noticed the extra attention he’s received since vaulting to the top of the AHL scoring race.

“The pressure will always be the same,” he said. “I think I put more pressure on myself than others do. My goal is just to try and get to the Leafs. People can think whatever they want. But my goal is to get there.”

It isn’t going to happen overnight. But at least Nylander has his dad and his brother around as he’s pursuing his dream.

They go to the movies and the mall on days off. But the best time is spent around the dinner table.

“It’s nice to have them there to come home and maybe talk a little hockey or get your mind off of hockey,” Nylander said.

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