DOB: March 2, 1998 (Age, 21)
Draft: 2016, eighth-overall
How acquired: Drafted by Buffalo
Last contract signed: July 15, 2016, 3yr./$5.325 million ($832,500 base salary, 2yr. entry-level slide)
Final year of contract: 2020-21
2018-19 Stats: 12 games | 2 goals | 2 assists | 4 points | -4 | 12:12 ATOI
Buffalo Career Stats: 19 games | 3 goals | 3 assists | 6 points | -9 | 12:20 ATOI
What we wrote preseason
: When Nylander was drafted with the eighth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, his skating and skills were never in doubt as most felt that he had possibly the best skill-set of any player in his draft class. The knock on him has always been compete and that followed him into the pros as he made the jump directly to AHL as an 18 yr. old.
That same profile followed him into camp this year although Buffalo GM Jason Botterill reminded everyone that Nylander was still only 20 yrs. old and that most players are just hitting the pro ranks at his age. We were also reminded that a preseason injury pretty much scuttled much of his 2017-18 season and heard that he was determined to make an impact at camp this year.
That he did.
He's been one of Buffalo's best forwards this preseason and with Sheary sidelined, as of right now Nylander looks to have a spot in the top-six to lose for Thursday's opener against the Boston Bruins. Even if Sheary were healthy, Nylander looks to have had the type of camp that would put him on the roster opening night. Good for him and good for the Sabres.
What we wrote mid-season
Impressions on his play this year
: Nylander didn't make Buffalo's opening night but he got off to a strong start with nine points (4+5) and a plus-6 rating in his first nine games for the Rochester Americans. However, as has been his M.O., Nylander disappeared for a huge chunk of the season before getting hot with a four-game goal-streak prior to his late-season recall to Buffalo. After three "ramp-up" games with the Sabres, Nylander hit a nice stretch where he fully looked the part of an eighth-overall pick with two goals and four points in three games before disappearing again.
Are we sensing a trend yet?
As was written back in March during his three-game point-streak many, including this blogger had pretty much written him off as a blunder of former general manager Tim Murray. But he always pulls you back in
with stellar play. Nylander should be considered a litmus test as to Buffalo's overall prospect development and so far none of the coaching staff in either Rochester or Buffalo has been able to get him to play consistent hockey that lives up to his talent-level. Much to their credit, the Sabres organization never gave him a free ride and they made him work for everything he got but the mixed results must be frustrating.
Even with his waivers-exempt status (according to CapFriendly) one would think that after three seasons played mostly in the AHL, Buffalo will give Nylander a full opportunity for the 2019-20 season. Perhaps Ralph Krueger with his wealth of experience coaching internationally can bring out Nylander's talents once and for all. Then again, maybe the 21 yr. old winger is what he is--a highly skilled player who seems to lack NHL-level intensity and motivation on a consistent basis. If that's the case, and with present GM Jason Botterill lacking any ties to him, perhaps Nylander will ultimately be a sweetener in a trade for one of the Sabres needs.
With all that said, Nylander represents a very important prospect for the Sabres. If they can get that top-six skill out of him at the NHL-level that's one less hole to fill moving forward and if Jeff Skinner moves on it becomes even more important. If not, it's another set-back Botterill and the Sabres need to overcome.
Questions moving forward
: Does Botterill feel Krueger can get the most out of the highly-skilled Nylander or is this the real Nylander? Is he a "change-of-scenery" candidate? Having played both wings, where is Nylander most comfortable? If he starts out in Buffalo, how would he play if he landed in the bottom-six or on the fourth line? Would they even put him on the fourth line in Buffalo? If he's still in with the Sabres at camp, how much of a shot will he get in the top-six? Would playing with better players make a difference? How much of a sweetener would he be in a trade? Where might he end up?
Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com