2015-16 Team: Mississauga Steelheads (#92)
Date of Birth: March 2, 1998
Place of Birth: Calgary, Alberta
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 180 lbs
Position: Right Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 first-year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking: 7th (June)
- THW Alternate: 6th (June)
- THW War Room: 8th (May)
- Future Considerations: 8th (June)
- ISS: 6th (June)
- Bob McKenzie: 7th (June)
- Craig Button: 10th (June)
When it comes to pure offensive ability, Alexander Nylander is among the very best in the 2016 National Hockey League draft class. The second son of long-time NHLer Michael Nylander to hit the NHL Draft – big brother William was a Toronto first round pick in 2014 – Nylander has a few things in common with his father and brother. Michael was dangerous in the offensive zone and William has been very good in the American Hockey League, but there’s reason to believe that Alexander may be even better than those that came before him.
When speaking about Alexander’s skill level, it’s probably easier to spend time on what he doesn’t have instead of droning on about his positive attributes. He’s a great skater, who can dance around opposition defenders with ease. If that wasn’t good enough, he’s got superb vision and the ability to make seemingly impossible tape-to-tape passes to set up his teammates for scoring opportunities. He’s also got a great shot, to the point where he was reportedly placed on the point on Mississauga’s power-play because he could power his shot through traffic and hit the net.
There are two arguable warts in Nylander’s game: his defensive play and his size. Lax defensive play isn’t a rarity among high-octane offensive talents, as they’re often more engaged when playing with the puck than in pursuit of it. Nylander’s no exception, and his attention to detail away from the puck needs some work. At times he can seem more like he’s waiting for his team to get the puck back than pursuing it with any real conviction.
He’s also not a particularly thick individual physically, and his finesse game can get derailed if he’s leaned on (or crashed into) by opposition defenders. If he’s going to see the strengths of his game translate to the NHL level, he’s going to need to learn to battle through traffic a bit more (and he’ll need to add some muscle to his frame to do that effectively).
That said, focusing on Nylander’s short-comings seems a bit like complaining that your sports car doesn’t handle well in the snow: if it’s what you’re looking for in a vehicle, you can work around that issue.
Nylander is a tremendously gifted offensive talent who tore up the Ontario Hockey League in his first season playing elite-level hockey in North America. If he adapted to the smaller North American ice quickly, it seems likely that he can shore up the defensive side of his game and fill out physically. No doubt the minute he steps off the stage at the 2016 NHL Draft, his new club will have a plan drawn up to do just that.
NHL Draft Projection:
Nylander is considered one of the better prospects in the draft and could go as high as fifth overall. He’s virtually guaranteed to go in the first ten selections.
“The son of former NHLer Michael Nylander, Alexander is a dynamic skating offensive catalyst that just produces points. His skating can go from effortless to shifty as he has the ability to use his edges to deke or juke through traffic with ease. Possesses soft hands and very creative puck skills plus the ability to make his teammates better with some jaw dropping passes. He is not a one trick pony however as he can also finish off plays. Top line NHL potential.” – Future Considerations
“Despite some flaws, the high-end skill is as good as anyone in the draft. He has the potential to be a top line NHL forward if he can fix those issues. It may take some time for Alexander Nylander to be NHL ready, and it should be expected that his development will continue in Mississauga next season.” – Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports
“Nylander is an absolutely dynamic offensive player. Quite frankly, I don’t think there is a major weakness in his game in the offensive end. He has the potential to be a 40/40 guy in the NHL, and we know how rare those are. The hands are elite. One of the best puck handlers in the league. He creates so much time and space for himself and he really opens up the ice for his linemates.” – Brock Otten, OHL Prospects
- Excellent vision and hockey sense.
- Strong passer.
- Accurate, hard shot.
- Strong skater with good acceleration and control.
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Could be better in his own zone, particularly with positioning.
- His play away from the puck could be tightened up.
- He’s not a particularly heavy player and needs to bulk up a bit to handle corner battles.
Nylander projects as a high-impact top-six scoring winger at the NHL level. A hopeful expectation for his NHL potential is probably Nikita Kucherov or Kyle Okposo in terms of style and production.
Risk – 1/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offense 9/10, Defense 8/10
Nylander has been a fixture for Team Sweden in recent years, representing his country at the Under-17 Challenge, the World Under-18 Championship, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament and the World Juniors. He captured bronze at the U17s and silver at both the U18s and the Hlinka tournament. He was also named the Rookie of the Year this past season in both the Ontario Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League as a whole.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.