This post is part of Buffalo Sabres day at PHT…
If history is any indicator, Alex Nylander — taken eighth overall by Buffalo at June’s draft — should have a decent shot at some NHL action this season.
Mikhail Grigorenko, one of Buffalo’s club’s first-round picks in 2012, spent considerable time with the team in his draft year. Rasmus Ristolainen did the same the season following, and Sam Reinhart made a nine-game cameo in his draft year.
Last season, Jack Eichel — the No. 2 overall pick at the ’15 draft — had a terrific campaign, scoring 24 goals in 81 games to finish fourth in Calder voting.
So what does Sabres GM Tim Murray see for Nylander?
“If you ask me, ‘Could I see him going back to junior?’ I guess there’s a scenario,” Murray said in mid-July, per the Buffalo News. “If you ask me, ‘Could I see him playing wing with [Eichel and Reinhart]?’ I think there’s a scenario.
“He’s just high-end talent, high-end skill. He’s going to be a real good NHL player. It’s a matter of time.”
Nylander had 75 points in 57 games for the OHL Mississauga last season. For that, he was named the league’s rookie of year. He thinks he can make the jump to the Sabres right away, and vowed to do everything in his power this summer to make it happen.
Nylander also has bloodlines working on his behalf. His brother, William — taken eighth overall by Toronto in ’14 — didn’t make the Leafs in his draft year, but was brought over to play with the AHL Marlies.
Last season, as a 19-year-old, William made his NHL debut and fared very well, scoring 13 points in 22 games.
Of course, there are some things working against the younger Nylander.
For one, Alex is looking to crack a much different Buffalo roster than the aforementioned rookies did. This is a team with heightened expectations — earlier this summer, head coach Dan Bylsma said the team was “stronger” and “deeper” than last year, and suggested the Sabres “should be above 95 points at the end of the season.”
Buffalo finished with 81 last year.
High priced veteran Kyle Okposo was brought aboard in free agency, which furthered the notion the Sabres aren’t in a position to play youngsters that aren’t ready.
On that note, it has to be said that Nylander has a multitude of options for next season — he could play in the NHL, the AHL, Europe, or be returned to the Steelheads.
But according to Murray, the kid will get his shot.
“When we selected Alex, we obviously knew he was a talented, skilled player,” Murray said upon signing Nylander to his ELC back in July. “We look forward to him coming to training camp and competing for a job.”