Prospect Impressions: A Nylander scores a dazzler, the Hanson Brothers motivate, and more NHL prospect highlights

By David Hahn
Kevin Labanc - Barrie Colts

Photo: Barrie Colts forward and San Jose Sharks prospect Kevin Labanc will try to improve on his breakout 2014-15 OHL season where he posted 31 goals and 107 points in 68 games (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)



The Nylander family is in the news lately, and the youngest family member, Alex, just scored one of the prettiest goals of the year. Another family, the Strome’s, are making waves themselves, but again it’s youngest brother Matt that started the year off hot. There’s more, too, as top prospects in Tampa Bay and Winnipeg push for playing time just like the world-famous Hanson Brothers did.

It’s a goal that has to be seen from multiple angles to be believed. Hockey fans in Toronto have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Alex Nylander, just from what they have seen from his older brother William, one of the Toronto Maple Leafs top prospects. Just a few short miles down the road in Mississauga, Alex is plying his trade in the OHL with the Steelheads, a young, upstart team with big expectations this season. Interestingly enough, former NHL forward Michael Nylander is able to keep an eye on his sons as an assistant coach for the Steelheads. It’s a family affair, and boy did the skills get passed on, and for proof, take a look at this beauty.

There is one more Strome brother coming down the pipeline, as oldest sibling Ryan is now an established forward for the New York Islanders, and middle-brother Dylan is headed back to the Erie Otters of the OHL. That league will now have a second Strome, as youngest brother Matthew is a rookie playing for the newest OHL franchise in Hamilton. It took four games, but Matthew scored his first OHL goal in true goal-scorer’s fashion.

One of the most interesting characters in the OHL, Kevin Labanc inspires with his Twitter handle, where he takes it “straight to the bank.” The reference, in hockey terms, means taking the puck to the net in order to score, something Labanc managed to do 31 times last season. The San Jose Sharks prospect is back with the Barrie Colts for his overage year, and figures to be one of the top scorers in the league, hoping to improve on his 107-point 2014-15 campaign.

Scott Darling’s road to the NHL was a long, trying, and often times difficult one. Despite numerous setbacks on and off the ice, Darling persevered over adversity and became the Blackhawks’ go-to option behind incumbent starter Corey Crawford. He enamored himself to the Chicago faithful with a strong stretch run, and picked up right where he left off the in preseason with this tremendous save.

The coming years in Winnipeg are going to be celebrated, thanks in part to a dynamic trio of forwards in Mark Scheifele, Nic Petan, and Nik Ehlers. In particular, Ehlers appears ready for regular playing time in the NHL following back-to-back 100-point seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL. Ehlers, a dashing Dane with ridiculous skating ability, recently notched his first goal in the preseason with a nice individual effort.

It is put-up or shut-up time for Jonathan Drouin, and he sure made a lot of noise in the preseason. Drouin, who finished his rookie year with just four goals, matched that total in the preseason, a positive sign for his development. A supremely gifted and offensively oriented winger, Drouin has been slotted alongside Steven Stamkos, perhaps foreshadowing what to expect this year. If this goal is another precursor to avoiding a sophomore slump, believe the hype.

That Drouin goal was scored in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where the Pittsburgh Penguins were hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning as part of Kraft’s “Hockeyville USA” event, a promotion where a dilapidated old rink was given a facelift. Also a part of that event, the Hanson Brothers, famously played in the movie “Slap Shot,” were in attendance and got the Penguins fired up for the event.


Last week’s Prospect Impressions highlights

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey