The surefire first Swedish player to be drafted in Friday's first round of the NHL draft has a flair that has always been present for him, which he buttresses with world-class quickness and speed. Once the calendar turned to 2014, the flashy forward, perhaps smarting a bit after being left off Team Sweden for the world junior championship despite being a gifted 17-year-old, kicked his game up a notch in the second half. He tallied, as a teen facing full-grown pros, 15 goals and 27 points over 35 combined games while on loan to Rögle and Södertälje in Sweden's second division, the Allsvenskan. The son of former NHLer Michael Nylander capped off his season by averaging more than two points per game for Sweden at the world under-18 championship in April.
"I'm an offensive player, I like to score goals and make plays," says Nylander, who is NHL Central Scouting Service's second-ranked international skater after Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen. "The creativity has always been there for me. Maybe it's something I have inside me.
"Getting to play the men's type of hockey has been a great experience," adds Nylander, whose busy slate last season also included a 22-game stint with Modo where he had one goal and seven points. "[Playing in the Allsvenskan] was very important for me developing. There's a couple players in the league who signed to go over to the NHL, it's a pretty good league."
The underlying assumption about why Kapanen leapfrogged Nylander in the final CSS ranking is that the former is a more a complete player who might be able to adapt to the NHL sooner. Nylander, listed at 5-foot-11 and 169 pounds, also has a smallish frame, which could pigeonhole him into having to be a 'show player' who must be a top-6 forward in order to be a valuable NHLer. Nylander's potential, though, is off the charts and he has a former-NHLer father to offer guidance, which will make him tough to pass on this Friday.
"I'm thankful that he's been there to help me all the way so I think it's just been a positive influence for me," William Nylander says of his father, whom he played with in Rögle for a portion of last season. "He's always helping me in the gym. Nothing negative. You can ask me about my dad all you like."
1. Which NHL players do you study closely?
"It's hard to say. In Sweden, the games are on at 2 in the morning so you can't really watch live. But I like the way John Tavares and Patrick Kane play."
2. What do you think your timetable is for establishing yourself in the NHL?
"My goal is to have a great summer and do whatever it takes to make the NHL. A big aspect of what will make the difference for playing in the NHL is the gym part of it. Being in the gym and gaining strength is a big factor."
3. How much exposure to the NHL lifestyle did you receive while spending the early part of your life in the United States?
"We were in rinks all the time growing up. My brother [Alexander Nylander] and I saw the great part of it, going down to locker rooms and meeting all the guys."
4. In 2007, your dad almost signed in Edmonton, and then he didn't (instead signing with the Washington Capitals). Have you ever thought about what fan reception you might receive there?
"I haven't thought about that but I'm sure it would be a great experience. It's a great hockey town and they love hockey."
5. What is your favourite Swedish food?
"Actually, I like sushi. They got two or three good restaurants back home."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- William Nylander
- Michael Nylander