The 22-year-old rookie tallied 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in his first season with the Blackhawks.
On July 9, 2019, the Chicago Blackhawks traded defenseman Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for 2016 eighth overall pick Alex Nylander, which was a move that Hawks’ general manager Stan Bowman took a lot of heat for at the time. Jokiharju was coming off a strong first professional season with the Blackhawks and appeared to be a future staple of their defense, while Nylander struggled to produce consistently in each of his three years with Buffalo at the AHL level. For a one-for-one swap, it certainly looked like the Sabres got the better end of the bargain.
Following an impressive showing in training camp and during the preseason, Nylander found himself on the Blackhawks opening night roster and wound up scoring the team’s first goal of the year against the Philadelphia Flyers. Nylander continued to play well for the Hawks in the early going, as he recorded seven points (2G, 5A) in the first 12 games of the season before hitting a rough stretch to end the 2019 calendar year. The Calgary, Alberta native only had two goals and four assists in the final 27 contests of the decade, which drew a lot of concern from the fans in Chicago.
The remainder of Nylander’s 2019-20 regular season was similar to a rollercoaster ride: filled with ups and downs. There were times where he would be one of the more noticeable Blackhawks in the lineup, and then other nights he would disappear completely. After racking up just seven points (3G, 4A) in 32 games from Nov. 5 – Jan. 15, he finished the year on a strong foot with 12 points (5G, 7A) in the final 21 games before the regular season was paused on Mar. 11.
Looking at some of Nylander’s other statistics, and a couple that stand out are his career-low 12:08 time on ice as well as his mediocre 94 shots on goal in 65 games played. The right-handed forward also had a whopping 14 blocks and 29 hits, so he did not provide much on the defensive side of things either. Nylander did only have 10 penalty minutes this year, which was the third-lowest from any Blackhawks player with more than 40 games played. On the possession side of things, Nylander posted some fairly impressive numbers with a 49.4 Corsi percentage while being on the ice for 31 goals for to 34 against. Because of his solid possession numbers, many fans feel that Nylander was much better than his stat line suggests.
But considering what the Hawks gave up for Nylander, it is hard to be satisfied with just 26 points this season, especially considering that he got numerous top-six looks next to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. A handful of young forwards have had success in similar situations, such as Brandon Saad, Artemi Panarin, Nick Schmaltz, etc., so it was a bit discouraging to see the 22-year-old Nylander struggle. Now, it was only his first year in the Blackhawks system, and he definitely has the talent to turn things around in a hurry. Look for Nylander to try and do so on the Hawks second line along with Kane and Dylan Strome against the Edmonton Oilers in the best-of-five play-in series.
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