Published by hockeybuzz.com, 5-31-2018
DOB: March 2, 1998 (Age, 20)
Draft: 2016, eighth-overall
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: July 15, 2016, 3yr./$5.325 million (2yr. entry-level slide)
Final year of contract: 2020-21
2017-18 Stats: 3 games played | 1 goal | 0 assists | -3 | 12:52 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats: 7 games | 1 goal | 1 assist | -5 | 12:33 ATOI
What we wrote preseason: His showing in the first Prospects Challenge game this year may have punched his ticket to Rochester. Not that it was bad by any means, but the highly skilled winger failed to supremely impress and had an injury ta boot. Another year with the Amerks, or at least a start there, while adjusting to his increased bulk, is a good thing despite what he and others might think.
What we wrote mid-season: N/A
Impressions on his play this year: Nylander didn't make much of an impression during his three games in Buffalo, although he had a real nice tip for his first-ever NHL goal. With the way he's been struggling and/or slow to unleash his talents in Rochester, this could be a big miss for the organization. Former GM Tim Murray and his scouts passed on NHL-ready defenseman Mikhail Sergachev at the 2016 NHL Draft opting to add speed and skill on the wing. "I think after the Pittsburgh (Penguins) win you hear people talking about speed and that’s what we’ve been trying to do the past couple of years," said Murray post-draft, "and we don’t have enough of it yet. We’ve made great strides and to get a guy like him that we think is a top six forward, just fit into our blueprint.”
Nylander's struggles begin with his style of play which is mostly an east/west, perimeter game. In junior and in international junior tournaments he was able to find or create open space with relative ease which allowed him to unleash a wicked shot. But as he transitioned to the pros as an 18 yr. old, he found that space hard to come by and he's not the type of player that can will his way to open space. One of his biggest obstacles in Rochester was his smaller size and he bulked up last season to handle the rigors of the pro game. Unfortunately for him, he suffered an injury in the off season that kept him out until mid-November.
Confidence is the key with him and he just doesn't have it, at least on a semi-consistent basis. Two years and 116 AHL games should have given him a good idea as to what he needs to do to be successful and playing on teams that are much better than the one he played for in his rookie season will also help. He won't carry the load but is the type of player that can be a brilliant addition to a collection of existing talent and that's why it's still too early to give up on him.
Questions moving forward: Can he get bulk up into that 190-195 lb. range (again) and still maintain his skill-level at that size? Will he go into camp knowing that a spot on the NHL roster is not a given? Will he accept another season in Rochester as a way of continuing his development? Or will he play out of character and do whatever's necessary knowing that there's a spot on Jack Eichel's left wing for the taking? Is he on a long development curve? A late bloomer? Or a first-round bust?
Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.