Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander out for Sweden at world juniors
Sweden's William Nylander waits for a pass during a friendly match against Canada in Helsinki, Finland, on Dec. 23, 2015, prior to the 2016 IIHF World Junior U20 Ice Hockey Championships tournament. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva via AP)
HELSINKI — If Sweden wins a medal at the world junior championship, it will be without William Nylander.
The team officially announced on Sunday that the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect’s tournament is over. While Sweden was hoping that Nylander would be able to return from a suspected head injury he suffered in their opening game against Switzerland, team doctors have decided to shut down the forward and send him back to his NHL team.
“The decision for William not to play the rest of the tournament was the right decision,” Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. “He will return to Toronto and be re-evaluated by our team physicians.”
Sweden head coach Rikard Gronborg said the decision to pull Nylander was made by the team’s doctor, but the Leafs reportedly have been involved every step of the way, including keeping the specifics of his injury under wraps.
“A player’s health is always No. 1,” said Gronborg.
The loss of Nylander, the eighth overall pick in 2014 who had been leading the American Hockey League in scoring with 34 points in 27 games, is a big one. But the team has been surviving his absence so far, in part because his younger brother Alex leads Sweden with four goals and nine points in five games.
“The biggest loss is for the crowd,” said Gronborg, whose team plays host to Finland in a semifinal on Monday. “(William is) a tremendous hockey player. Obviously, for us, he’s an offensive guy that we were hoping would help us on the power play. But we’ve been playing without him for a while.
“I think it’s too bad for him. I know he was looking forward to playing with his brother and winning a gold medal.”
— Michael Traikos