With 14 games left, the Buffalo Sabres are ten points out of a playoff spot. They sit at 22nd in the league with 69 points. They are 30-29-9 and are 2-6-2 in their last ten games. This is including four straight losses going into Tuesday’s game against the Dallas Stars.
At this point in the year, the Sabres are out of the playoffs. They would have to go on a ridiculous run to end the year. And they would need to have every single game around the NHL go in their favor.
Since their 10 game winning streak in November, the rate of play for the Sabres has gone way down. Goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have lost their touch, the Sabres lost their scoring punch, and the defense in front of the goalies has become even more horrendous.
The Sabres have been outshot, outscored and outplayed basically since the beginning of December. With Jack Eichel suspended, it was time for Alexander Nylander to be called up.
Now Is A Perfect Time
Besides Eichel getting suspended, the year is coming to an end and this is the time to give “the kids” a look. Nylander has goals in four straight games and six points out of those last four games.
In 49 games this season, Nylander has scored 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points. Since being drafted with the eighth pick in 2016, he has scored 30 goals and 56 assists for 86 points.
This will be Nylander’s third time with the big club. In his previous two call-ups, he has only played in seven games. In those seven games, he scored one goal and one assist for a very underwhelming two points.
Many people are saying that this is Nylander’s “last chance” to impress before he should be considered in trade deals. Mainly because he hasn’t exploded like the rest of the 2016 Draft. That draft saw the likes of Matthew Tkachuk, Logan Brown, Clayton Keller, Auston Matthews, and a lot of other first round picks take off.
If Nylander isn’t able to show improvement, then it may be time to find a trading partner.
Where Nylander Slots In
The hope for Nylander is that he will slot in on the second line or possibly even the top line in Sam Reinhart’s spot. In doing that, that will allow Reinhart the ability to wake up the other lines and get some scoring going.
Nylander has always been called a shot creator and what the organization should hope to see is his creativity and that he can hold his own.
The knock on Nylander has been that he hasn’t been able to produce as he did in Sweden or the OHL. And to be quite honest he has always lived in his brother’s, William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs, shadow.
Nylander has great hands, awesome ice vision, and a great mind. He was able to show that before the draft, which is why Buffalo selected him at number eight. But in the AHL and NHL, he has been slightly disappointing.
Most of the 2016 Draft class is in the NHL now. With Nylander’s projection as a top-six forward, it has been disappointing he couldn’t contribute more.
But, he also never played in a full AHL season. Nylander has been injured in each of his seasons. He has also missed a few games as a call-up.
What We Hope To See
What Nylander needs to show this time is that he has improved though. In his previous two call ups, he didn’t generate much offense and really didn’t set himself up very well. He looked slow and out of place and had a terrible time adjusting.
This year in the AHL, all they have done is sing his praises. It’s been said that he put in tremendous work during the offseason, was a leader at the prospect camp, and is having a career year.
Scouts have said that Buffalo would need to take their time with him and that he will be a much better NHL player than AHL player. This time, Nylander needs to show that’s true. It’s time for him to really take advantage of this opportunity because Buffalo is truly lacking great wingers.
If Nylander can produce in at least half of the games he’ll play, then that would be a huge improvement. Buffalo should keep him up for the rest of the year and truly give him his chance to shine.
Let him play with Eichel and Jeff Skinner and see if he can run with the big boys in the lineup. Nylander should be a chance to succeed. That includes special teams play, overtimes and even the shootout.
If Nylander can continue his play from the AHL then Buffalo fans will have something to get excited about. A speedy, playmaking winger who has a very nice shot is always something awesome to watch.
Nylander has the skill set to compete in the NHL. He also has the body and hands to really make a difference at the pro level. Fans can expect a true competitor each night, and another fun playmaker that GM Jason Botterill has been talking about adding.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, as stated previously, Nylander is 21 and he does have a lot to learn.
Look for number 92 in blue and gold this Tuesday as Buffalo takes on the Dallas Stars at 7 PM ET.