Flames First Round Targets 2016: Alexander Nylander

The Flames First Round Targets series is back, and we’re kicking it off with the guy who most think will end up in Flames silks by the end of the evening on June 24: Alexander Nylander.

In 2013, we kicked it off with Sean Monahan and, well, we probably shouldn’t have wasted our time much after that. But we did then, and we will now!
Nylander is generally considered the lesser of the “Other 3”, as I’ve dubbed them, consisting also of Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Nonetheless, he’s still a prospect to get excited about. 
He’s hyperskilled, fast as they come and has a knack for putting points up on the board. The cherry on top is the fact he plays right wing. This is good. 
Nylander’s also born in Calgary, and we all know how much fans and media love their local boys. Standing 6 foot, he’ll join Big-and-Local Joe Colborne and Small-and-Local Hunter Shinkaruk. Let’s call him Average-and-Local and complete the trio.

Scouting Reports 

“He’s an excellent skater with a deadly shot, but he can score goals from in close thanks to a ridiculous set of hands. Nylander is able to make smart decisions as he maneuvers through traffic, and his ability to stickhandle in and around a dense field of sticks and skates while knowing exactly where his linemates will be makes him an indefensible threat on the rush. He’s impossible to prepare for, as he can beat you with his playmaking or his heavy shot.” – TheDraftAnalyst.com 

“The son of former NHL player Michael Nylander will get the chance to play alongside his brother, William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs), for Sweden. The younger Nylander (6-0, 179) has displayed high-end skill and the ability to make plays at top speed with Mississauga of the OHL. Scouts like his shot and his excellent release.”  – Mike Morreale, NHL.com

“Alexander is a dynamic skating offensive catalyst that just produces points. His skating can go from effortless to shifty as he has the ability to use his edges to deke or juke through traffic with ease. Possesses soft hands and very creative puck skills plus the ability to make his teammates better with some jaw dropping passes. He is not a one trick pony however as he can also finish off plays. Top line NHL potential.” – FutureConsiderations.ca


Special thanks to mynhldraft.com for compiling these quotes. 
Boy, if the first quote doesn’t get you excited, that last one from FutureConsiderations sure does. Top line NHL potential. That’s exactly what the Flames need. A top line right winger to play with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, and it would make sense to put a player with a similar skill set to Gaudreau’s – that being uber-skilled with finishing ability as well as playmaking – to compliment the duo. 
Of course, we always looks at players we like and say “he’ll fit in perfectly with these two” because we’d love to believe it, and sometimes it doesn’t work out like that. Nonetheless, on a team parched for skill on the right side, this is a perfect pick.

The Numbers

As you can see, Nylander had a successful first season in the OHL. He led his team in scoring by a margin of 14 points, trailing Dubois’ total of 20 in that category, and fared extraordinarily well in international competitions, a factor taken quite seriously into scouting equations. Those tournaments may be short, but don’t underestimate the effect of best-on-best competition has on draft stock. 
Digging deeper into his counting stats, we find some reasonably positive trends in his 75 points in 58 game season.
He scored 33 even strength primary points, which also ranked first on his team. Dubois had 53 and Tkachuk 37, but Tkachuk was fourth on his team in this category. 
Nylander scored 28 goals in 57 games, shooting 15.73% – which seems high but isn’t that bad for high skilled junior players – and 18 of these were at even strength. He added six more games in the playoffs scoring 12 points, an impressive eight of those coming at even strength. His team just wasn’t particularly impressive and their getting knocked out is nothing to pin on Nylander. It’s a team sport.

Conclusion 

Hardly a bad selection considering many are pegging him a consolation prize from missing out on not only Matthews, Laine and Puljujarvi but Dubois and Tkachuk too, Nylander’s drafting as a Flame would immediately and unarguably vault him to the top of the Flames’ prospect list. 
He’s not only an exciting and excellent prospect in his own right, but he fits right into the Flames’ biggest need organizationally. 
The only thing to be wary of is, although it all sounds rosy and exciting right now, its crucial to note there’s considerable risk associated with Nylander: mainly the transferability of his game to the NHL. 
Nylander plays a very similar style of junior hockey to Sven Baertschi during his time in Portland. He dances around everyone and makes goalies look silly, but when he graduated to the NHL, the dancing turned into street fighting and it was sadly obvious that Baertschi just couldn’t transfer over his skillset. 
He had to become a vastly different hockey player. I’m not saying the situations are identical – there are tons of examples of small skill players doing the same in the NHL as they did in junior – and it’s important to not overlook the embarrassing development process the Flames took Baertschi through, but there are some parallels and at the very least, it gives you pause and tempers your expectations. Even at sixth overall, prospects are not sure things.
Not to say you shouldn’t be excited if the Flames draft Alex Nylander sixth overall, because you should. The kid is electric. 
  • Petzl

    The kid’s not really that small… He’s 6 foot / 5’11 already 180. Once he puts on some muscle he will probably play at 200. I think that’s fairly good size in today NHL especially if his skating is top notch.

    Comparing him the Sven is fair, they do play similar games, biggest thing we will see is how he comes into camps and how coach-able he is.

    • Greg

      I wonder if the similarity to Sven factored into the decision to fire Hartley, given how well Bob was able to develop Sven? Perhaps BT figured that’s who he’s getting and he’ll need a coach that can work with that?

      Timing almost makes more sense than the Beadreau availability given they never even spoke to him.

    • Parallex

      Yeah, physically speaking he won’t be small more like average. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s 6’1… his brother is 5’11 and he looks like he’s a couple inches taller. When he physically matures I figure he’ll probably be built like Backlund.

  • brodiegio4life

    if the flames can’t get dubouis I think nylander should be the pick, a lot of the complaints about him are that he’s not strong enough and needs to add some weight which can easily be fixed.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    The top 6 look set…unless someone picks a D in the top 6.

    It appears that we pick Dubois if he is available at 6 ( unlikely).

    What if Nylander and Tkachuk are both available at 6?

    Who do we pick?

    WW

    • brodiegio4life

      being from guelph and watching fabbri in person on that mem cup run I was amazed that he fell so far in the draft most likely based strictly on size…

  • jakethesnail

    Great skills when he HAS the puck, but can he pound a d-man in the corners to extricate the puck? What is his play like when he doesn’t have the puck?

    OMG! Another Baertschi or son of Michael!

    • cjc

      Michael Nylander put up 679 points in 920 NHL games. He also suffered a lot of injuries, especially early in his career. Which is to say, he did pretty well for the era he played in. If his son can reach a similar level, that wouldn’t be a disappointment.

  • beloch

    Nylander’s NHLE from the OHL is 37.1 (including the playoffs). That’s pretty darned good. For comparison, Sam Bennett’s NHLE was 38.4 in his draft year.

    I would not be unhappy at all if this is the kid the Flames draft.

  • Christian Roatis

    Important to note re: the Baerstchi comparison, I’m more-so throwing caution to the wind and trying to temper expectations by reminding everyone that elite skill and scoring ability in junior doesn’t always transfer.

    But sometimes it certainly does (Fabbri, Ehlers are recent examples).

    • Burnward

      Oh, for sure. These comparisons are always so subjective.

      I just see him as more of a pure sniper/goal scorer than Sven was.

      But again, we’re all just internet experts!

  • Parallex

    YMMV but I think this is partially incorrect…

    “That’s exactly what the Flames need. A top line right winger to play with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau”

    … IMO what the Flames really need is a top line Winger to play with Sam Bennett. The Flames need to stretch out the line-up and make it difficult for opposing coaches to match lines. We need multiple eggs in multiple baskets. The partially correct part is that optimally that winger will be a RW so that he can slide up and play alongside JG & SM on the top unit PP.

    • Christian Roatis

      Regardless, Nylander is a high skill solution to one of your glaring right wing holes.

      Frankly, we’re both right. They need someone to play with SM/JG AND Bennett.

  • First Name Unidentified

    I can understand people pointing to “Tkachuk played with Marner and Dvorak” but so what? Didn’t Drouin play with MacKinnon and had amazing stats prior to their draft? He’s sure looking successful in transferring his game to the NHL. Having Monahan and Gaudreau as linemates is perfect for a player who thrives with superior talent. Plus he will be in a support role on the top line, at least initially.
    Why not go with Tkachuk if we have the choice?

    • Craig

      I’d be careful with the mackinnon comparison as even though they played together for a year, the year after Drouin was sent back and really drove the bus by himself. All of our evidence on Tkachuk is based on him playing with two very good players, and the stats are pretty muddy if he in fact was the driving force.

  • Backburner

    I’m still 50/50 on Nylander, but I’m slowly warming up to him.

    My question is, if the Flames are taking the Best player available, is Nylander the clear choice over Chychrun or Juolevi?

    • Burnward

      I’ve thought this too. But seeing as how the Canucks and Oil are picking ahead…wherever they land won’t be used to be rubbed in my face!!!

      If Zona, Montreal etc end up getting a stud, so be it.

  • Dallery

    Referencing Drouin earlier, do you think there would be any appetite to trade our 6th, another pick and a couple prospects for him? I really think I’d pay the ransom.

  • Baalzamon

    The biggest thing about Nylander for me is how much difficulty Mississauga had scoring when he was out of the lineup. In the eight games he played but McLeod didn’t, the team scored 15(!!) more goals than they did in the eight games with McLeod and no Nylander.

  • Parallex

    Semi-off topic draft related poll: Say the #6 pick comes up and Pierre-Luc Dubois is still on the board… #6 Pick + Mason Raymond to the Habs for Alex Galchenyuk who says no? Prop for Montreal, Trash for Calgary.

    • Baalzamon

      I propped… but I’m not sure. Really depends on how enamored the Habs are with Dubois.

      I do think they’re under a lot of pressure to make the most of Price’s prime, though (as they should be). Don’t know what their appetite is for trading Galchenyuk, who they’ve sunk a lot of time and resources into developing, for another fresh-faced prospect.

    • T&A4Flames

      I trashed it- CGY should/would decline. Saving 1 year of Raymond is not enough to trade the guy most seem to hope will fall to us. I Like Galchenyuk but I don’t think he is what we need whereas Dubois is a big fwd with some nasty who plays all positions. Buying out Raymond if we can’t trade him for something without giving up something seems like a no brainer; 2 years with only a $1.05 cap hit.

      Now, if MTL were to add the #9 with Galchenyuk, I would have to think a bit more. But still, what’s at 9 that would be good for us?

      • Stan

        LMAO!! l are you kidding me? If Montreal offers Galchenyuk for the 6th you do the deal and run laughing all the way to the bank. Not that they EVER would, that deal is honestly so bad its not even funny.

        You do realize that Galchenyuk was the Habs second leading scorer this past season? With 30 goals and 26 assists? For comparisons sake, Monahan had 3 less goals and 10 more assists this past season…. and he was playing with Gaudreau. Honestly, it makes it even more funny that you suggested they include the 9th pick to make it worth while. Do you really expect the Canadiens to trade their #1C who is coming off his best season to move up 3 picks in the draft? Give your head a shake.

    • brodiegio4life

      are u kidding? why would Montreal trade a former 3rd overall pick who had a breakout season for a 6th overall and a bad contract. That’s literally an awful deal for montreal

      • Parallex

        … I’m not proposing the deal I’m asking who would say “no”. I actually agree that Montreal should say no (I’m honestly surprised that the Calgary saying no option is scoring higher).

        My basic thought was that Montreal might say yes (even though I wouldn’t) because they have a well known inefficiency in caring about having francophone players and Galchenyuk will start getting expensive after next season (so Montreal effectively get’s future cap space). On a risk/talent anaylsis the easy answer is the Habs say no… but I think the answer becomes harder when you bake in the cultural and financial factors.

        • KiLLKiND

          The deal makes no sense for either team, which is why both are saying no. I would prefer having PLD than Galchenyuk as Galy would need to be protected in the expansion draft. PLD suites what Calgary needs more which will be a big versatile skilled forward on a cheap entry level contract. Montreal is in the win now mode with Price and doesn’t make sense for them either. Even if it isn’t PLD both Tkachuk and Nylander suite Calgary’s needs more. Especially when you factor in Gaudreau and Monahan’s contract.

  • everton fc

    One thing I like about Nylander is he’s really North American. Grew up on the continent, spent his summers in Sweden, is my understanding. Would the Leafs trade for our #6 pick, if Nylander were available, to play him with his brother, something the family dreams of, brothers included? This hasn’t come up here; and I personally don’t see anyone Calgary can use from Toronto, particularly. Zach Hyman is certainly not a guy who can just jump into the lineup on the right side….

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Convince me that Nylander isn’t s softie toffee perimeter player who can solidly play all three zones, or am I asking too much of a 6th round pick?

    The old man could thread a needle from 60 feet, but he was the softest player I have ever seen. Marlie coaches have already called out young William during these playoffs for lackadaisical play. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

    Sell me Nylander. I am a keen shopper who isn’t all that thrilled with Keith’s kid, so convince me that Nylander is the right pick for the Flames.

    • Baalzamon

      All I can say to that is I’m fairly certain Alexander is considered a more complete player than his brother. He may not be the hard-motored power winger everyone wants, but his defensive awareness is solid.

      Honestly, if a player with Nylander’s offensive tools was also a sublime two-way forward, he’d be ranked #2 in the draft class.

    • wot96

      I don’t know that I am totally convinced either. But there’s the thing, Johnny Hockey isn’t exactly known for being hard in the corners, a strong net presence, and a relentless back-checker either. However, he is effective and not just in an offensive capacity.

      Secondly, as others have pointed out, you probably actually want Nylander on the second line with Bennett, who is very responsible defensively and is hard in the corners and has a good net presence, so that might work out well.

      Third, if Nylander has the puck all the time, which seems to be one of his strengths, he doesn’t need to be as committed defensively as others. That’s the whole point of puck possession hockey that the Flames say they want to play.

      Not sure that he goes to the Flames next year as I gather he is committed to another year in Europe. But that’s okay, because that means the Bennett, Monahan and Gaudreau post-elc contracts should be in force and the team should be able to forecast its budget properly by then.

      I think he ticks a lot of boxes. I think this kid will be a good choice.

        • Baalzamon

          Yes. The team that drafts Nylander can, if they choose, sign him to an ELC and assign him to the AHL. This is because he played this season in the OHL on loan from Rogle–he is currently under contract with Rogle. If Rogle agrees to give him up, he can play in the AHL next season. Otherwise, he returns to Sweden (I don’t think he can play in the OHL next year; similar situation to Julius Honka a few years ago).

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Here is the problem that I have with all the Nylander nay Sayers. He is being referred to as too small when when he likely will wash out at 6ft plus…similar to Benetts height. He is definitely not going to play a heavy game and people have to get over that.

    It is safe to say that Baertschi was mis-managed but he is no Nylander. I never felt that Baertschi was an elite player…he was good at all a lot of things but not great at anything. He has good speed, good hands, and good IQ. Baertschi’s days seemed numbered as soon as Burke came on board.

    IMO Nylander’s game is far more translatable, he has an elite shot and release while still having great speed, acceleration, and IQ. He is able to dominate despite having a slight frame, since all teenagers add muscle and elite hockey players typically have the resources to gain weight and strength in the right manner….he will be able to compete physically while dominating with his skill.

    I see Backlund as a good comparison for playing size and strength on his edges when he is filled out…even the most vocal Backlund haters could not argue with Backlund’s game if he could finish at the NHL level. Nylander can do a lot of things Johnny can do but has the release and shot that can rival Monny.

    People need to realize there are players with an NHL level shot in the draft but very few with an elite shot in the draft and in the NHL. In the draft Laine and Gauthier have been identified as having elite shots. In the NHL, Tarasenko, Kessel and Neal seem to be on another level.

    I worry that Calgary may try to outsmart itself like it did in 1997 when they passed on Samsonov for Tkachuk….ugh. As long as hockey games are won by scoring more goals than the competitor why would teams understate the importance of a game breaker like Nylander.

    • supra steve

      I’m a Nylander “nay Sayer”, but I’ve never once referred to his size in any way. His dad was an NHL underachiever, his skills far outweighed his contributions to his teams on the ice. I’m not yet convinced that this generation of Nylander is any different. I hope the Flames value at least one available player more than they do Nylander, but if he is their pick, then I’m all for giving him the benefit of the doubt.

      As for Daniel Tkaczuk, the Flames took him about where he was expected to be drafted, if you want to retroactively redraft that pick…Hossa would be a MUCH better selection than Samsonov.

      Rico Fata, the following year, was the real “outsmart” themselves pick.