The 21-year-old forward has 86 points in 165 career AHL games.
Just over two weeks ago, the Chicago Blackhawks made the gutsy decision to trade Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Alexander Nylander. While Nylander is full of talent, he’s yet to show it consistently at the professional level. Henri Jokiharju, on the other hand, has revealed why he’s one of the top defensemen prospects in the NHL. Last season, Jokiharju made his NHL debut and won two gold medals for Finland as an 18-year-old. It’s easy to see why this trade looks lopsided in Buffalo’s favor.
Stan Bowman and the front office are hoping that they have another Dylan Strome situation on their hands with Alexander Nylander. While they were both top-10 picks in their respected drafts, that may be the only thing similar about these two players.
Dylan Strome was known as a hard-working, competitive kid that could motivate his team to victory. Not nearly the same characteristics that are commonly used to describe Nylander. During his tenure in Buffalo, scouts and fans frequently questioned his motivation and desire to play the game. No one was calling him a leader.
Strome was producing at a high level during his time in the AHL. Nylander has yet to score more than 12 goals in any of his three AHL seasons.
They’re both similar in the sense that they needed fresh starts, but these two situations are a whole lot different.
What Needs To Change With Nylander
It was clear by watching Nylander during drills at Blackhawks’ development camp that he possesses an incredible skill set. His offensive awareness and puck control were second to none. Nylander demonstrated magnificent stickhandling by swiftly dancing around defenders. He was noticeably calm with the puck. Nylander was expected to standout with three seasons of professional hockey under his belt, but it was nice to see nonetheless.
Things began to head in the wrong direction for Nylander during the team scrimmage on Friday morning though. He was uninvolved for most of the scrimmage, and Blackhawks fans began to question his interest. Nylander failed to be aggressive with the puck on his stick and generated few chances. He slowly drove to the net and fired wide on his best scoring opportunity of the morning.
Nylander struggled to win board battles throughout the scrimmage and didn’t do all that much. He was invisible on the ice and truly underwhelmed. Much younger and inexperienced prospects were more impressive than he was. For how dominant Nylander was during drills, it was concerning to see him uninvolved during the scrimmage. He was the most experienced player at camp and failed to take advantage. It was not a good start with the Blackhawks fans for Nylander.
If Alexander Nylander wants to silence the critics, all he has to do is produce consistently next season. It would be more impressive if he could do it at the NHL level, but that may be a step ahead. Nylander still needs to prove himself in the AHL, and there’s a decent chance that’s where he starts the season. The Blackhawks currently have a plethora of depth forwards, and it could be hard for Nylander to crack the lineup. Especially if he were to be in a limited role. The Blackhawks would much rather have Nylander playing in all facets of the game in Rockford.
Wherever Alexander Nylander plays next season, he NEEDS to produce to prove why he was a top-10 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkHawkey).