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.
“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.”
“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
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.
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.
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.