The Buffalo Sabres created an instant brotherly rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL Draft here Friday, taking Mississauga winger Alexander Nylander with the No. 8 pick in First Niagara Center.
Nylander is the brother of Leafs prospect William Nylander. Their father is former NHLer Michael Nylander, a Mississauga assistant coach who played 920 NHL games with seven teams from 1992-2009.
Alexander Nylander, who was born in Calgary but raised in Stockholm, Sweden, led all Ontario Hockey League rookies in scoring last season with 28 goals and 75 points in 57 games. He earned both the Emms Family Award as OHL Rookie of the Year and CHL Rookie of the Year honors. At the World Junior Championships, he led Sweden with four goals and five assists as the Swedes lost to Finland in the gold medal game.
"It was an unbelievable moment," Nylander said of being drafted by the Sabres. "The best moment of my life, a big dream come true. I had a really good feeling since I talked to them before that they might pick me. I sort of thought I had a good chance."
William Nylander was also selected eighth overall, by the Leafs in the 2014 draft out in Philadelphia. He split time this year in Toronto, between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies.
"We'll be friends," said Alexander Nylander. "We're really close to each other and we'll enjoy every moment playing against each other."
General Manager Tim Murray was again thrifty at the microphone, using just four words -- "Buffalo selects Alex Nylander" -- to make the pick. The sellout crowd roared its approval and Nylander donned his blue & gold Sabres sweater as the fans cheered again.
"I think I'm a playmaker who's a gamebreaker also," he said. "I play with hockey sense with good vision and I'm able to make plays offensively. I was watching the draft last year with Eichel and they have some pretty phenomenal players on the ice and it will be really fun playing with them one day."
The Nylander choice by the Sabres is certainly considered a surprise, given the expectation that Buffalo would take a defenseman with its top choice. And that's particularly true given the fact surprises over the first eight picks left highly regarded defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Jakob Chychrun on the board.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) June 25, 2016