HELSINKI — It is becoming the Mystery of William Nylander.
In a very strange turn of events, the Swedish hockey team called a news conference and then, at the very last second, cancelled the conference in which Nylander was supposed to address his health and his continued participation at the world junior hockey championship.
The bottom line is that Nylander is officially “day-to-day” with the team hoping he will return at some point to the tournament.
But it was a befuddling journey to get them to say that much. Nylander is out with a suspected concussion — the team won’t confirm it’s a concussion — suffered from a check to the head in the first game. He had been spotted at his hotel having lunch. The Maple Leafs top prospect looked fine. He has been exercising.
But he did not skate Thursday as expected, leading to speculation he’d had some sort of setback.
“The meeting with William Nylander is cancelled, due to a decision by Swedish team management,” said spokesman Anders Feltenmark after the media assembled in a hotel meeting room. “Team management has decided it’s not suitable. I’m sorry (the cancellation) comes this late, but sometimes things happen.”
The Swedish team doctor, Per Adolf Bergsten, was made available, but didn’t shed much more light on the situation, saying the team is in constant contact with the Maple Leafs concerning Nylander’s recovery but would not talk about his symptoms.
“He’s feeling fine, but we made a late decision about him not attending this media conference,” Bergsten said. “It’s more about the attention. We called this press conference to clear things up a bit, but we decided late that William, we would like to protect him a bit.”
Bergsten didn’t say what they were protecting him from.
Feltenmark added it was the Swedish team’s decision — and not Nylander’s nor the Maple Leafs — to cancel Nylander’s participation.
Bergsten restated that the team hoped he would play in the tournament.
“We will take it day-to-day and see how he progresses with his rehabilitation.”
The earliest Nylander could be expected is Saturday in the quarter-finals. There is no question the Swedish team — already one of the best here — would be better with Nylander. He got a goal and an assist in the first period of the first game before his injury. And it was expected when the Leafs loaned him to Sweden that Nylander would dominate the tournament.
Bergsten said the Leafs fully support the Swedish medical decisions on Nylander.
“They have the same approach as us, that is, if he is able to play, he will play, but that must be at 100 per cent,” said Bergsten. “I’ve always said hopefully he will play again in this tournament and obviously there is still that hope. He has to move slowly forward.”