Nylander made his season debut Thursday night after ending his contract stalemate Saturday. He played just 12:29, but Babcock said he liked what he saw, and admitted the forward may have been thrown into the fire a little prematurely.
"I thought Willy was fine," Babcock said. "It was probably unfair for me - we had the bus thing that happened, we were supposed to practice together, we never even gave the guy a practice. We wanted to get him in. You've got two guys on that line, one coming back from injury (Auston Matthews) and one who hasn't played. In the end, we had an opportunity, we felt, to get going.
"We tried to get going. It has nothing to do with Willy, it has to do with me and trying to win the game, that's all ... I want him to play a ton, I just want to get him out there and get him going. Any time you've missed that amount of hockey, it's going to be hard for him."
After playing 10:22 through the first two periods, Nylander was limited to just 2:07 in the final frame, not seeing the ice for the final 11:37 of the third period and overtime.
Nylander, for his part, was satisfied with his performance, all things considered.
"It felt OK, there's a lot of differences from practicing by yourself and with the team back home," Nylander said. "I started feeling better, legs were OK, so it felt like an OK first game."
The 22-year-old should finally get some practice reps in on Friday before the Maple Leafs ship out to Boston for a meeting with the Bruins on Saturday night.