Alex Nylander may not be ready to play for the Buffalo Sabres just yet, but he'd probably already be the team's best shootout specialist.
Nylander scored two of Team Gold's goals on penalty shots in a 5-3 loss to Team Blue at the Sabres Development Camp Scrimmage Saturday. He capped off the afternoon by scoring a third time in an extra full-team shootout following the final whistle.
"He’s got some sweet moves and some sweet hands," Rochester Americans head coach Dan Lambert said.
"I've always been pretty good at shootouts," Nylander said. "It's always been a competition at practices with my buddies or my brother."
The rules of the scrimmage played into Nylander's strength. Instead of power plays on penalties, the teams were awarded a penalty shot. The shooting player would get a head start, but the rest of the players on the ice would chase them him behind to simulate an in-game breakaway situation.
That meant that Nylander wasn't able to dilly-dally. He put on the jets, and he superb skating ability gave him slightly more time to orchestrate his moves.
He's now 6 for 6 in breakaway opportunities if you combine his scrimmage performance with the team's last man standing shootout competition on Friday. He possesses a multitude of skills that translate well to breakaways, but his most dangerous weapon is his backhand shot. It's a move that was also his father Michael Nylander's favorite in shootouts.
"It takes a lot of practice," Nylander said. "I practice shooting on both forehand and backhand when you're close to the net."
He's been showing off his stickhandling ability all week at Development Camp, but he'll need to excel in other attributes to earn a spot on the Sabres roster. Saturday was the team's first opportunity to see him play against the other prospects in a game situation, and he looked the part of a top draft selection.
He made an impact on his first shift, threading the defense in the attacking zone with a cross-ice pass to Victor Olofsson. The two were on the same page again in the second period, creating a 2-on-1 situation that was foiled by a spectacular save by Antoine Samuel.
"We were pairing up a bit in the practice too," Nylander said. "We sort of found chemistry directly there with the 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s. They sort of carried on in this game. Unfortunately we were really close to scoring a goal, but if we play again with each other we probably get a couple."
Although most of Nylander's play during actual play wasn't flashy, it was smart. He knew the right place to be and saw the ice well for passes. He was aggressive at points on the backcheck, getting his stick in the way of clearing passes.
"I think I played good," Nylander said. "It was high tempo. I hadn't played a game in two months, but it was a lot of fun.
"There were no nerves. I just went into this game just like I usually do and just try to play my game, work hard every shift and go from there."