Alex Nylander may be the most controversial prospect the Sabres have had in a long time.
The 19-year-old was selected eighth overall in 2016 by Tim Murray, even though the team was desperate for defencemen (Sergachev went ninth and Chychrun went 16th).
Both Sergachev and Chychrun have gotten off to great starts in their NHL careers, while Nylander hasn’t cracked the NHL lineup and has struggled to put up points in the AHL.
Now the fan base is split on what to think of the 19-year-old Swedish forward. Some fans are ready to call him a bust and have given up hope that he will even play in the NHL and others are willing to be patient because he’s 19 and has had two injuries early in his career.
Nyalnder scored 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points in 65 games an AHL rookie, and has four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 29 games this season. His numbers may not be all that impressive but I still believe Nylander has potential to be second line NHL winger.
First things first, fans need to remember that this kid is only 19, he still has time to develop his game and improve in the areas that he needs to improve in.
If Nylander was like any other CHL player drafted in the first round he’d still be playing in Junior, but because he was a special case he was allowed to enter the AHL as an 18-year-old.
It’s clear that Nylander has to get stronger, he has to improve his ability off the puck and most importantly he has to improve his desire to compete for loose pucks. But the reality is, these are all areas that can be easily improved upon.
If you follow @LetsGoAmerks on twitter you’d hear that Nylander is often the last guy on the ice, and he often spends extra time on the ice working to improve in the areas listed above.
This isn’t an article defending Nylander, or saying that he will turn into a superstar. This is an article stating the facts, he is only 19 and while he has a lot of areas to improve on before he makes the jump to the NHL he does have a lot of positives in his game.
If you watch Nylander play it’s very clear that this kid can shoot. His release is so quick and deceptive that he often catches goalies off guard. He has an NHL calibre shot, and once he works on improving his strength he will be able to get into the areas that allow him to use his shot more effectively.
His Offensive Instincts
With the puck on Nylander’s stick he’s often one of the best players on the ice. Nylander has uncanny hockey sense, a creative mind, and extremely skilled hands. He can see the ice like some of the best and can create plays that not many other can create.
Shocker, like any other top prospect in the NHL Nylander has the speed that will allow him to skate with anyone in the NHL.
At times Nylander doesn’t show consistency in his game, whether it is consistent effort or his inability to consistently put up points he definitely needs to improve his effort on a nightly basis.
Nylander is 6-1, 192 lbs but still needs to work on his strength. Too often he gets outworked for the puck. A player of his size can’t allow himself to be consistently outmuscled on the ice by other players.
Off the Puck
Like any other young offensively gifted player Nylander has to improve his ability off the puck. When he has the puck on his stick he can be a dominant player, but without the puck he doesn’t do the little things that an NHL player needs to do.
Nylander is coming off a four-point performance against Wilkes-Barre Scranton on Friday, and hopefully he can use that game to build some momentum for the rest of the AHL season.
If he can put up respectable numbers in the AHL for the rest of the season he can use the off-season to build more strength, and work on the flawed areas of his game.
Next training camp could be a make or break situation for Nylander, he will be 20 and will be entering his third pro season. He needs to seize the opportunity next year and show Botterill that he can be an impactful player in the NHL.
As of right now, I wouldn’t panic about Nylander’s game. He’s 19 and should still be playing in Junior, but I do believe that he has to start producing consistently for the Sabres to have faith in him as a prospect.
Where do you stand on Nylander? send feedback to @TheChargingBUF and @austin_broad
*stats provided by eliteprospects*