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2016 NHL Draft prospect profile: Alexander Nylander is one of the most skilled players available

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Hockey runs deep in the Nylander family, and Alexander is no exception, bringing a ton of skill to the table.

Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Drafting at ninth overall is a difficult position, particularly in this year’s draft. Once the top three is gone, the rankings start to jump around a lot more, making it difficult to predict who will go where. Alexander Nylander is one of those players who could go in almost any position.

Ranked anywhere from sixth to 12th, the Mississauga Steelheads forward had a very impressive rookie year in the OHL, and is now expected by most to be a top-10 pick like his brother William. Having been named the OHL rookie of the year for 2015-16, that seems highly likely come June 24.

Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta

Shoots: Right

Position: Right Wing/Left Wing

Height: 6’0" Weight: 179lbs

He has every tool you want to see in an offensive dynamo. Skating wise, he has an explosive first step combined with elite top-end speed, enabling him to cut through the neutral zone and get around defenders.

His puck skills are elite, and he needs only the smallest amount of space to make something happen, or confuse a defender before skating around him. He has a ridiculously quick release on his shot, and again, needs very little space to get it off.

He is also as accomplished at playmaking as he is at scoring goals himself. He has great vision, can find his teammates through a crowd, and thrives when he has the puck in the offensive zone, where he can get creative with it.

This is evidenced by his 47 assists last season with Mississauga, 27 of which were primary. When he gets set up in the offensive zone with the puck, it’s just a matter of time before he finds a teammate for a scoring chance, or simply creates one for himself.

Offensively, he is a complete threat, but his defensive game could use some work. Really, he has been relied upon by the Steelheads and other teams to create offence so much that he has never really had to worry about heavy defensive assignments. This is something he’ll want to work on before he gets to the NHL.

Play away from the puck is another thing that seems to come up quite a bit. When he has the puck he is quite the player to watch, but he sometimes struggles with his positioning when he doesn’t. These are skills that usually come with more experience though.

Scouting

Hockey Prospect

Alex Nylander is a highly skilled, versatile offensive threat, who is equally smart as he is skilled. A player who is effective as both a goal scorer and a playmaker, Nylander is at his best with possession of the puck. He controls the pace of play in possession, Nylander possesses elite vision and playmaking abilities, anticipating the play a step ahead of his peers.

Alex shows tremendous creativity in the offensive zone. Nylander's elite puck skills along with his quick feet and strong mobility make him difficult to contain both in tight spaces and off the rush. Possessing an explosive first step and high end straight line speed, Nylander has the ability to create separation. While Nylander is successful as a playmaker and has the abilities to make those around him better, he also possesses an excellent shot. Displaying a lightning quick release, Nylander's shot packs velocity and pin point accuracy, making him lethal in the scoring areas. He also has an excellent one-timer.

Nylander exudes confidence. Away from the puck, Nylander has been hit or miss. When utilizing his speed and shiftiness he will track down the puck carrier quickly and force turnovers taking away time and space. However, in other situations he can go several shifts at a time showing laziness and an unwillingness to work for pucks, even when the carrier is nearby. Nylander has his highs and lows, but at the end of the day he's one of the most talented players available for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He has the upside of a first line forward who creates offense for his linemates, while having the finishing ability both on the breakaway and with a big shot. He will need to work on his consistency and at times, his work ethic away from the puck, but his skating, awareness and skill will see him selected very high in the draft.

Future Considerations

Nylander is a smart, super-skilled winger who will make you pay if you give him the tiniest of space. This Swede—the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander—doesn’t let up in possession and is a driven forward who wants to create offense in whatever way possible. He finds his spots in the offensive zone and picks apart lanes exceptionally well. Nylander does a good job of using his shoulder to push off from his check and protect the puck, shifting his weight enough to maintain balance and drive to the outside. He possesses quick feet and some high-end agility, allowing him to explode off the hop and in all directions. His puck skills complement his incredible shot perfectly; he plays with the puck on a string thanks to quick hands and confidence to do something great.

Nylander possesses incredible puck skills in tight quarters and can easily stickhandle in a phone booth. He is quick to escape trouble by combining his puck skills, skating and hockey sense—he uses his quick agility to dash through with the puck in close as he scopes out the play around him to escape to open ice and make a play with the puck. His shot is his greatest asset—it is fast and rocket-like—and he has a deceptive release from in close while in movement.

Nylander has the ability to speed up and slow down the play with possession, something that not many players can do effectively. He’s an absolute threat with the puck on his stick as he can push the play, undress defenders, and make a pass you wouldn’t expect or take a deceptively hard shot that makes goalies freeze in their tracks. Nylander has very good timing about when to pressure the puck-carrier and use his stick and slippery play to strip the puck; it’s almost unexpected when he swoops in and removes the puck from the man, making him a threat away from the puck. His offensive upside, thanks to his quick, deceptive release, exceptional vision and hockey IQ, is extremely high.

ISS

Has that "Wow" factor!! Slick skilled offensive dynamo with quick hands and feet. His vision and confidence with the puck are high end. Tries and completes plays that others would never attempt. Elevated his game during OHL playoffs and provided leadership to young Steelheads team. Expectations were high with this player at the U18. He didn't 'Wow' as much as expected but he played good enough to lead his team in scoring. Outstanding 1/1 skills and playmaking ability. Slightly built but strong on his skates - changes directions quickly and very good in tight spaces. Calm and poised with the puck and has an NHL shot. Not great defensively, but nothing that isn't coachable, just needs to show a little more commitment to playing a 200 foot game. Selected OHL Rookie of the Year.

Rankings

ISS: 6th

Future Considerations: 8th

NHL Central Scouting Service: 3rd (North American skaters)

DraftBuzz Hockey: 6th

Hockey Prospect: 12th

Draft Analyst: 7th

ESPN: 7th

Thoughts

If he is still on the board at ninth overall, the Canadiens should definitely make that pick. He won’t be in the NHL next year, but he is definitely one of the closer prospects slated to go in the top 10.

If he falls that far, there is an easy argument to be made that the Canadiens are getting a steal. It’s not far-fetched, as a lot will depend on what the teams above them view as their most pressing needs. In the end, if they can get him there, it’s a great deal.

I’ve been rather vocal about my opinion that the Canadiens should go after a winger with their first pick. Nylander can play both sides of the wing, so he would be a big addition to the prospect pool. That versatility would allow for them to try several different lineup configurations once he’s ready to make the jump.

If the Canadiens elect to stand pat at ninth overall, and not trade up or down, Alexander Nylander is arguably the best player they could hope to get.