After not stepping foot on the ice during Sabres development camp in what is a critical offseason, Alex Nylander enters the club’s Prospects Challenge tournament this weekend with a lot riding on his shoulders.
“It’s a huge little tournament for me and it’s obviously nice to get some games in before the real training camp starts,” Nylander said Friday morning after the team held a morning skate ahead of its 7 p.m. faceoff with prospects from the New Jersey Devils at HarborCenter.
Buffalo’s 2016 first-round pick, eighth overall, Nylander missed rookie camp last year and the training camp that followed with a lower body injury. He didn’t debut in 2017 until mid-November.
After a disappointing 27 points in 51 games for the Rochester Americans, Nylander sat out the on-ice sessions in development camp in June. When he went home to Sweden, Nylander said he worked with Dennis Miller, the team’s rehab and development coach, who went overseas to help Nylander rehabilitate a nagging groin injury.
“Last year was really unfortunate what happened,” Nylander said. “It’s fortunate that I’m here now and I can show the player that I am in this camp and get ready for the season.”
Nylander, 20, projects to land in Rochester again to start 2018. But he has a weekend with three games (he may only play in two) and a full training camp starting next week to change the narrative. That’s more than he was afforded last year.
Amerks coach Chris Taylor, who will man the bench during this weekend’s tournament, brought up Nylander when asked Thursday after practice who had stood out.
“I didn’t see Alex, obviously, because he didn’t do development camp," Taylor said. "I just saw the maturity level with him and how he skates.
“He wants to be here. He’s another player that wants to stick in the NHL.”
Nylander will skate this weekend on the left wing of a line centered by fellow Swede Rasmus Asplund with Notre Dame’s Andrew Oglevie on the right side.
If and when the Sabres get a power play opportunity, Nylander will be up front with Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson, with Rasmus Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut at the points.
The full lines and scratches for Friday’s game are below.
Victor Olofsson - Casey Mittelstadt - Tage Thompson
Alex Nylander - Rasmus Asplund - Andrew Oglevie
Matek Pekar - Kevin Hancock - Cole Coskey
Pascal Aquin - Myles Powell - Eric Cornel
Rasmus Dahlin - William Borgen
Brandon Hickey - Oskari Laaksonen
Lawrence Pilut - Nicholas Welsh
Starting goalie: Jonas Johansson, with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen backing up.
Scratches: Brendan Guhle, Arvin Atwal, Devante Stephens and Tobie Bisson on defense. Shane Eiserman, Vasily Glotov and Judd Peterson up front.
The Sabres play again at 7 p.m. Saturday against Boston and then again at 12:30 p.m. Monday vs. Pittsburgh.