The play of Nylander Friday was a microcosm of his time with the Amerks. Throughout the night he showed flashes of the first round talent he possesses. But, ultimately was defined by the glaring weaknesses in his game. I am going to rate his performance a C-. After comparing his style of play with Sweden to the effort he has put forth in Rochester, I am beginning to question his organizational fit.
There are two main differences between Nylander’s usage in Rochester and Sweden; his role on the power play, and on the rush. With a man advantage at the World Juniors, Nylander was extremely effective on the left point. He has strong body control and a right-handed shot giving a quick trigger. He picked out a few great cross-ice passes that led to assists, and was also in position to skate the puck. Against the Sound Tigers he spent all his time on the wing waiting for his teammates to dump the puck in. Nylander is painfully ineffective digging the puck out from the boards. His lack of desire to play physical hockey was on display as the Amerks had a difficult time getting set up. With Sweden this year Nylander had several assists on the rush and a very nice goal in the slot created by a give and go. Friday he spent most of the night static on the blue line waiting for Kennedy to dump the puck. He had a couple chances to crash the net and get a rebound, but was too far behind the play to capitalize. His only real opportunity came when he was able to skate the puck. He danced around a Bridgeport defenseman and brought Halak to his knees. Unfortunately, he was unable to lift the puck over his pad while being slashed. He made a couple more attempts to stickhandle past defenders on the boards but his lack of a physical game made him one-dimensional and he had no success. Nylander had much more space to operate at the World Juniors allowing him to maximize his creativity. The dump and chase style of blue-collar hockey being played in Rochester has been one of the biggest reasons he has failed to make an impact on the offensive end.
Defensively Nylander played a decent game. He made a couple nice fore-checking plays poking the puck away from defenders. However, the ability to finish checks would make him much more effective. He also could have turned the puck over back checking, but didn’t put forth enough effort. Most of the time he slowly trailed his man while entering the zone, hoping someone else would make a play to start the breakout.
If one thing is clear, it’s that Nylander has a long way to go before he is ready for the NHL. His physical limitations make it very difficult to succeed playing the Amerk’s style of hockey. Lambert has also had a difficult time finding line mates for the young prospect. He has moved back and forth between the first three lines and played both wing and center. The drastic drop off in Nylander’s success since returning from the World Juniors makes me question if he will ever find a role within this organization.