Within the next few days, we should know whether or not the Buffalo Sabres are going to loan forward Alexander Nylander to play for Team Sweden in the IIHF World Junior Championships. The tournament begins December 26, so a decision has to come very soon, one way or another.
The most recent word from the team came on December 15 in an article by John Vogl of The Buffalo News. His piece said the team was still discussing whether or not to loan him. In it, Sabres GM Jason Botterill was quoted as saying the team still has "discussions with Team Sweden throughout," and that Sweden had been "very accommodating."
The Rochester Americans, where Nylander is currently playing, had a pair of games over the weekend. A decision on Nylander wasn't expected until after those games, but now that they've gone and passed - what's the decision? Well, we still don't know - but they’re running out of time.
There are pros and cons to Nylander being released to play in the tournament.
The most glaring piece of this is the ease of it. Nylander is playing in Rochester, and the World Juniors are being held right here in Buffalo. He wouldn't have to travel internationally or overseas at all for the tournament. The proximity is also probably part of what's allowed the Sabres to wait *this* long to make the decision.
In addition, playing in the World Juniors would be positive for Nylander's development. It's easy to forget he's still only 19. On the Amerks, he's the youngest player by about eight months, largely playing with guys older than him by at least a few years. Giving him the chance to play alongside and against other U20 players would almost certainly help his development as a potential future NHL star.
Finally, Nylander's seen a slow start to the season as he just recently returned from injury. He's played in 14 games with the Amerks to date, notching six points (2-4). If he plays in the World Juniors, he'd be faced with a good chunk of games in a fairly short period of time. This could help him further refine his playing ability and get him further into shape for the rest of the AHL/NHL season.
If he did go to World Juniors and was assigned prior to Friday's Amerks game in Laval, it's likely that Nylander would miss six, possibly seven, of Rochester's upcoming games. It's possible that this would have an effect on the Amerks and their offense in the games, but is it really worth holding him back from a locally-held international tournament on such a big stage for that?
Of course, the other con to possibly allowing Nylander to play in the World Juniors is the possibility of injury. He's really just barely gotten back into the Amerks lineup after missing two months with a lower-body injury. What happens if he goes to World Juniors and re-aggravates that injury, or gets hurt some other way? One can only imagine the uproar Sabres fans would put forth if that happened.
Then again, injuries could also happen in the Amerks games, or even off the ice, in Rochester or Buffalo, or anywhere else.
So what's the right decision for Jason Botterill and co. here? It depends on who you ask, but either way, we should know very soon. The World Juniors open on December 26, with Sweden facing Belarus at 2 p.m. that afternoon at HARBORCENTER.