William Nylander’s Hot Start Is Reshaping Contract Expectations & Futures Odds

Amidst all the storylines surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs this year – as always, some good and some bad – there has been no star that has shined brighter than William Nylander. Entering the final year of what was once an extremely controversial six-year contract, the 27-year-old has had the best, most productive stretch of hockey of his career, and it’s starting to get a lot of notice – both from the hockey world and from the books.

The Streak

The most noticeable part of Nylander’s start to this season has been his point streak, which is marching toward historical territory. Nylander has picked up at least one point in all 17 of Toronto’s games to start 23/24, which is tied for the eighth-hottest start in that respect in league history. Another game would tie him for sixth, and one more would give him sole possession. Given that three of the streaks above him belong to Wayne Gretzky, that’s pretty good territory.

Gretzky’s best run, an insane 51-game streak that didn’t end until late January, is probably out of reach. The second best, set by Mats Sundin back when he was still in Quebec, would still be a tough achievement at 30 games. Dany Heatley’s 22, set in his first 22 games with the Senators in 2005/06, is the most reasonable and immediate target.

Across this streak, Nylander has put up 12 goals and 15 assists for 27 points, currently putting him two goals back of the goals lead and four points back in the Art Ross race. There have been some close calls along the way, including a secondary assist in the mid-third period against Los Angeles on Oct. 3, an overtime point against Tampa on Nov. 6, and of course, the takeover against Detroit on the 17th, which didn’t start until the third period. But he’s made it work, again and again and again.

Trophy Watch

Because of all of this, Nylander has vaulted himself into several award conversations. Here’s where he was ranked by bet365 at the start of the season, and where he stands now.

Start of Season

Nov. 23
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)+25000+3300 (12th)
Rocket Richard Trophy (Most Goals)Not Shortlisted+4000 (10th)

Nylander has shot up the ranks in both MVP and Rocket Richard futures odds, going from extreme longshot to being right in the thick of two of the most revered races.

Beyond those, bet365 is offering a special promo surrounding the streak, and whether or not he can chain together another nine games. The good news here is that the promo started last week against the Red Wings, meaning that you can hop on now with seven to go, should you want to. This would get him ahead of Heatley and into the top five all-time for start-of-year point streaks and would put him one ahead of Mitch Marner for the longest point streak at any stage of the season in Leafs history.

Can He Keep It Up?

Obviously, the point streak itself will have an expiry date. Producing night-in, night-out in this league is difficult no matter who you are. Connor McDavid, the league’s undisputed best player today, has never gone longer than the same 17 games that Nylander is at now. Sidney Crosby peaked at 25 in his absolute most dominant stretch. Mario Lemieux only cracked 30 once, and for all of Gretzky’s dominance, those 30+ game streaks that dominate the top five all came before 1986. We’re probably not seeing Nylander chase 51, and every game he keeps on trucking is a bit of a blessing.

But what about the overall run? At this point, we’re about 20% into the season and the sum of this run has Nylander set up for several career highs. Having already set bets of 40 goals and 87 points last year, Nylander is now on pace for 57 goals and 130 points, respectively, over the course of 82 games.


Can he keep it up? Well, it’s complicated. Typically, the first step one would take to see if a leap like this is legitimate is to look at a player’s individual shooting percentage, and their PDO (on-ice shooting and save percentage). Nylander’s overall shooting percentage is up (15.6%) against his career average (12.5%), but not to a degree that would take you all the way aback. His on-ice shooting percentage is also at a career-high but is actually below average at 5-on-5 and his PDO, thanks to a low on-ice save percentage, is sitting quite low at 97.5% (presumably explaining why the sum of all of this is just a +2 rating).

As such, while Nylander’s production is a career best at 5-on-5, it’s not up by enough that fully explains a pace that would jump him 43 points ahead of last year. In fact, his goal, assist, point and shot rates at 5-on-5 are all about the same as they were last season.

The big gains here are in other situations. Right now, he’s producing at nearly double his prior rates on the power play, taking nearly twice as many shots on his unit as well and posting a 22% shot while doing it. He’s also been Mr. Overtime, already putting up three points. This would put him at a pace for 14 overtime points over a full season, which would smash the analytics era (2007/08 to present) high by almost double.

I would not put a huge amount of stock in those special teams rates continuing. Power plays constantly adjust over the course of the season, sticks won’t always be hot, and while he’s being looked to as the cleanup man right now on his unit, there’s no guarantee of permanence. The overtime points, as good as he is with that open ice, aren’t likely to continue coming at the same clip. At the same time, a slight improvement at 5-on-5 and a big head start with specials put him well on pace to have a career high, maybe even one that pushes triple digits.

William Nylander to continue point streak through to 12/9 vs. Nashville (Game 24)

YES +800
NO -1400

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Contract Implications

This all leaves an uncomfortable situation with discussing Nylander’s contract. Earlier in the summer, the conversation was that the Leafs were hoping for a deal somewhere in the high-$8 million, low-$9 million range, while Nylander’s camp was hoping to push $10 million. While a middle ground made sense to some, there was a lot of belief that Toronto’s hopes were reasonable, if not a slight premium as it were.

The conversation has changed with this early season run, with some media voices wondering if Nylander has played himself into the $11-12 million range, shifting him away from comparables like Timo Meier and more towards the range of David Pastrnak.

For my money’s worth, this is a bit of a market overcorrection, built around the hype of the player’s current run. While there’s little doubt that Nylander has elevated himself to true superstardom over the past couple of years, the 130-point clip is unlikely to hold, and we’re ultimately talking about a player looking to sign at the age of 27 through as late to their age-35 season. Nylander has a play style that should mature well, but age curves come for everyone and all it takes is one injury to disrupt a player’s path.

More than anything, you can’t buy a player’s absolute high and expect it to be their normal. Toronto’s issue here, of course, is that waiting for that high to come down, or potentially even be counter-balanced with a slump, is something that takes time, and time is ticking. Nylander is an unrestricted free agent in July, and while that’s seven months away, the idea of losing him for nothing at his zenith is unnerving to say the least.

The ideal-case scenario here is that Nylander’s camp doesn’t try to pull a fast one and reset the price, and in return, Toronto gets closer to its initial ask. At the end of the day, superstars are the hardest players to replace, and while Toronto’s flexibility will be tight in 2024/25, a drop in John Tavares’ salary after next summer should make all the room needed to make this extension and Mitch Marner’s upcoming deal manageable, especially when combined with what is expected to be 2-3 years of substantial cap ceiling increases. A number in the mid-high $9’s would be a huge victory for Toronto, and even the low $10s would get the process over with.

If the agency is following the public lead with $11-12 million talks, though, you likely have to take the risk of waiting this out a bit.

Other Leafs Notes

Other Maple Leafs remain threats in the futures odds market. Auston Matthews is currently the front-runner for the Rocket Richard Trophy at +140, while Matthew Knies and Joseph Woll find themselves in the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) hunt at +4000.

Marner (+7500 Art Ross, +25000 Rocket Richard), Tavares (+15000 Rocket Richard), Morgan Rielly (+10000 Norris Trophy for best defenceman), and Sheldon Keefe (+2000 Jack Adams Trophy for best coach) are kicking around the short and long lists as well.