Over the past few offseasons, the Sabres have added loads of talent to their forward ranks, drafting players like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, and trading for players such as Ryan O'Reilly and Evander Kane. With the #8 pick in this year's draft, the Sabres should have their pick of a number of excellent prospects to add to their young pool of talent, and in the annual SB Nation mock draft, we chose to add another talented forward with some Atlantic Division connections.
With the #8 pick in the 2016 SBN mock draft, the Buffalo Sabres (and Die By The Blade) select Alexander Nylander.
Alex Nylander, RW/LW, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
2015-16 Regular Season: 57 GP, 28-47-75
2015-16 Playoffs: 6 GP, 6-6-12
Nylander brings speed and skill to the forward ranks of a Sabres organization still in need of that, despite their recent acquisitions. He has a game similar to Sam Reinhart - with high marks in vision, playmaking ability, puck control, and Hockey IQ. He also has some similar concerns about needing to add more muscle to thrive in the NHL, currently measuring in at 6'0'' and about 175 lbs, but as this season went along he improved on his ability to battle for space with and without the puck, and certainly has the family pedigree to know what it takes to play in the NHL. He's a right handed shot who's played plenty of left wing, so he's also a versatile player to plug in to the lineup.
In addition to his serious offensive skills, Nylander is also an excellent skater who scored the highest mark at the NHL Combine in a test that measures anaerobic peak power - essentially, one's ability to stay explosive even when tired. We know strong combine numbers catch Tim Murray's eye, and being a strong skater has become a prerequisite to being an NHL player these days. Nylander checks both of boxes in a big way, and when combined with his strong game sense and playmaking ability, you've got a prospect who can be a vital contributor among any team's top six forwards, and should find a place with Eichel and Reinhart as a key member of the Sabres new core.
How did we decide on Nylander?
To be honest, I was hoping for one of the two top defensemen to fall to Buffalo at #8, either Olli Juolevi or Jakob Chychrun, but with those two off the board already, our choice came down to defenseman Mikhail Sergachev or Nylander. Sergachev would be a nice addition to a Sabres blue line that needs another contributor next season, and he will bring both tenacity and offensive skill to whichever team drafts him. It's also worth noting that the Sabres reportedly had 20 people at his combine interview, so you know the team has him on their radar.
But Nylander would bring two unique aspects to the Sabres organization. The first is the obvious connection - his brother William Nylander plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and by drafting Alex, the Sabres and Leafs would add another juicy aspect to a rivalry between two young, growing teams. The second interesting thing about Nylander is that he is immediately eligible to play in the AHL next season. Since he was on loan to Mississauga this season, he's still technically under contract in Sweden, so he isn't bound to the same AHL restrictions that under-20 players face thanks to the CHL-NHL agreement. That means he could play for the Amerks next season, and potentially be a call up should the Sabres choose to do so.
The draft so far
Follow the rest of SBN's mock draft here, and give us your thoughts on our pick of Alex Nylander in the comments.