Alex Nylander Leads In Scoring At 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
Last week, Nylander and Team Sweden opened the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship with its 10th-consecutive undefeated preliminary round. Through six games, Nylander, 18, leads all players with 12 points (5G, 7A), and has been a crucial part of Sweden's success this tournament.
But even with Nylander pacing tournament scoring, Sweden fell to Canada in their semifinal match-up on Wednesday night, 5-2.
Nylander jumped onto scouting reports when he posted 15 goals and 40 points in 42 games in the highly competitive Swedish Elite League in the 2014-15 season. He then transferred his game to the OHL, where he posted 28 goals and 75 points in 57 games.
His numbers helped him become the eighth overall pick in 2016, taken by the Buffalo Sabres. Nylander's strong World Junior Championship showing is further displaying the scoring touch that made him one of Buffalo's last cuts in training camp.
Through 29 games with Buffalo's AHL affiliate Rochester Americans, Nylander has registered five goals and 12 assists for 17 points.
Before the season began, Rochester Americans coach Dan Lambert said, "There's no doubt the skill is there, but skill needs to work," regarding Nylander's impending professional debut.
His skill is working, and his strong tournament, fused with struggling Buffalo team, could sway the Sabres in giving Nylander his first stint of NHL action when he and his soaring confidence now that the tournament is over.
Nylander, of course, is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie William Nylander, and the second son of Michael Nylander, who spent 15 seasons in the NHL.
Much like his kin, Alex has been a go-to forward throughout his career. After he gets a feel for the North American game, he should be able to transfer his skill to the NHL.
Each Nylander plays a very similar game, relying on their hockey intelligence and offensive awareness to create plays and finish in the offensive zone. Each has also had his share of criticism when it comes to their intensity and using their body.
William's reluctance to lay his body on the line went semi-viral in the hockey community earlier this season when he pulled a "double flamingo." A "flamingo" occurs when a player lifts his leg to allow an opponent's shot through and a "double flamingo" is, well, jumping over the puck entirely--which is a no-go in professional hockey.
Below, William (dressed in blue), jumps over a Steven Stamkos shot on the left side of the image. His gaffe resulted in a goal against the Leafs, a game they would end up losing. His teammates poked fun at him after the play, but not nearly as much as Twitter did.
Alex hasn't shied away from contact quite to that extent, but he does often receive criticism for his lack of intensity and body-checking.
Alex and William are so similar that they were even selected in the same spot (eighth overall) in their respective draft years.
Even their father, Michael, who played 920 NHL games and recorded 209 goals, 470 assists, 679 points and had a plus-75 rating, faced criticism for side-stepping contact more often than not.
William, 20, is beginning to establish himself as a legitimate scorer with Toronto. As a rookie, he has 8 goals and 18 assists for 26 points through 36 games this season. Alex will get to that level soon enough, and could become linemates with generational-talent Jack Eichel when he reaches the big league.
But for now, Nylander is undoubtedly focused on leading Sweden to one more win and capturing the bronze medal against Russia.