Alex Nylander showed why they call him the Snipe Show in Sweden's 3-1 win against Czech Republic in the World Junior Championship Thursday.
The Buffalo Sabres prospect capitalized on a power play opportunity early in the third period with a laser from inside the left dot to the top right corner. The puck snuck through a pair of Czech sticks and hit the top corner with such ferocity that it fell back to the ice before some defenders knew what happened.
Nylander was modest about the feat.
"I was just trying to make a little fake and then try to get it on net," Nylander said.
The goal gave the Swedes a cushion after the Czechs began a comeback effort with a goal from Felip Zadina in the final minute of the second period. The Swedish defense locked down, only allowing six shots in the third period to move to 2-0 in Group B play.
It's clear Swedish coach Tomas Monten trusts Nylander. He led Swedish forwards in ice time, held the puck often on the power play and even got some time on the penalty kill. He was named the Swedish Player of the Game following the final buzzer.
Nylander was strong and poised, everything you'd expect from a World Juniors player who has already played four NHL games and 80 AHL games. He said that experience has benefitted him in his third World Juniors.
"You're playing against men in that league," Nylander said. "This is different. This is more people my age. You know the difference about the strength and stuff like that."
Nylander is the main Swedish draw for Sabres fans, but Marcus Davidsson made sure the sparse crowd didn't forget the other hometown prospect on the roster.
Davidsson scored the opening goal five minutes and 56 seconds into the game, capitalizing on an outstanding pass by Axel Jonsson Fjallby. The Washington Capitals prospect managed to hit Davidsson right on the tape with a no-look dish while crossing the goal line. Davidsson's quick wrist shot from the hashes beat Czech goalie Jakub Skarek glove side.
"I was a little bit surprised," Davidsson said. "I thought he was going to go in and try and score himself. I came in a good position and they didn't see me coming. It was great."
Sweden plays Switzerland Saturday at 2 p.m.
Dahlin learned from former Sabre
Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, playing in his second World Juniors, is the unquestioned No. 1 prospect heading into the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas. Before he accomplishes his dream of making the league, he's learned a tip or two about playing in this NHL from Frolunda teammate and former Buffalo Sabre Mike Weber.
"He played here in the NHL for many seasons, so he comes with many great things, ... just small things out there and outside the rink," Dahlin said.
Weber was very complimentary when he spoke about Dahlin with Puck Drop Europe's Patrik Bexell in November. Weber and Dahlin have spent some time together as defensive partners.
"Some of the stuff I've seen him obviously do in games and some of the stuff he does in practice, it's unbelievable how his body moves that way," Weber said. "(The goal) for myself and I know for the organization is to continue to get him to push himself to get to an even better and higher level if that's even possible."
Dahlin notched two assists against the Czechs, both on the power play. He was the quarterback of the unit, with the puck frequently running through him at the top center of the blue line.
Finland and Russia find the net
Finnish Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was tested infrequently, only making six saves on seven shots, in a 4-1 victory against Denmark.
Finland got scoring from four different players, with Joona Koppanen and Aapeli Rasanen scoring in the first and Juuso Valimaki and Henri Jokiharju scoring in the second.
Russia scored the final three goals of the game, including one empty-netter, to defeat Switzerland 5-2 in the lone Thursday game at the HarborCenter. Phillipp Kayumov scored the eventual game-winning goal with eight minutes and 58 seconds remaining in the third.