Buffalo Sabres fans have been eagerly waiting for a chance to see what forward Alexander Nylander can do at the NHL level. They’re finally getting that opportunity, as Nylander is getting at least a brief look with the Sabres toward the end of this NHL season.
Early on, many were quick to give up on Nylander, but he’s finding his feet and is developing into what could be a top-six NHL forward. By and large, it depends not just on Nylander’s own skill, but also on what lines, with which players and in what situations he’s being utilized.
To date, the 21-year-old has played in four games with the Sabres since being recalled earlier this month. His first two NHL games of the season were rough, and at times, he seemed pretty much invisible. He played 13:16 and registered one shot on goal in the game against Dallas on March 12. Two nights later, he played 12:20 against the Penguins.
But over the last two games, Nylander seems to be stepping up. He recorded one shot on goal and played 11:19 in the loss to Carolina, then had a pair of assists and played 11:40 in the win over St. Louis on Sunday.
Sunday’s game marked the first two-point game of Nylander’s short NHL career to date.
Of course, a lot of it comes down to confidence, and how Nylander is used (or isn’t) can certainly play into that. A two-point night could help, but it’s about where he goes from here that will make the difference.
Both Sheary and Rodrigues said they noticed that Nylander’s confidence has gotten better each game— Chad DeDominicis (@CMDeDominicis) March 18, 2019
Nylander has the potential to be a huge part of the Sabres’ future, particularly if he continues to develop as a right-winger - a position the Sabres particularly need some help in. He’s been playing alongside Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary and as Chad wrote earlier today, that’s been a good fit.
Truth is, this is just a small sample size and it’s way too early to call Nylander “the real deal” or a “flop” at the NHL level.
But here’s my hope: that the Sabres keep him up for the remainder of the regular season and give him a chance to keep getting his feet wet at the NHL level. I’d like to see more of what he can do alongside Rodrigues and Sheary, and see what consistent NHL action does for his confidence.
Then, once the Sabres season ends, Nylander can be returned to the AHL’s Rochester Americans and help the Amerks finish off their regular season and into the Calder Cup playoffs.