For the Mississauga Steelheads’ Alexander Nylander, his draft-eligible year is truly a family affair. And the experience handed down by his father and brother has proven to be rewarding.
“I think my season has been great so far and I’m looking forward to the second half, which has already started,” he said. “Of course, I’d like to get a little higher on [the ISS rankings].”
The 17-year-old Calgary-born, Swedish winger, currently sits seventh in ISS Hockey’s rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft. He is also third on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American skaters in that organization’s midterm rankings. In 42 games, Nylander has scored 26 goals and 60 points with the Steelheads, and finds himself atop most of the OHL rookie scoring rankings while currently sitting 11th overall in league scoring.
Older brother William was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs and has shared his experience with his younger brother. And Alexander’s father Michael — a veteran of nearly 1,000 NHL regular season and playoff games – is an assistant coach on the Steelheads.
“It helps with my brother having been through it can give me a lot of ice,” Nylander explained. “And my Dad helps the whole team, he’s got a lot of advice there. And he gives me a lot of tips, now that he’s able to see all my games, it’s been really great.”
He said that William has given him some basic advice. “Just focus on every game, play hard, and give your best every game and show you’re a good player,” he said. And, for the first time, Alexander and William had the chance to step on the same ice together during the IIHF World Junior Championship – though that experience was cut extremely short due to an injury to the older Nylander.
“I’ve never played with him and it was amazing. I was really looking forward to it and I was really sad when he got hit there because he was my linemate,” he said. “The tournament would have probably gone better for the whole team if he was still there. It was unfortunate, but it was a really fun experience being there.”
While the Nylander name hasn’t added any pressure for Alexander, he said watching his older brother’s experience with the Maple Leafs has given him a glimpse of the media attention that may be awaiting him.
“I’ve seen a lot of interviews. He’s used to it by now,” Nylander said. “I haven’t gotten so much, but it’s probably something I’ll see in the future.”
As for the remainder of the season, Nylander said that he wants to “just work on everything. Everything can get better.
“I try to work on stuff every day before practice to get better at everything: stickhandling, skating,” he said. “And [my father] helps me a lot.”
While he is doing that, he is also keeping an eye on his fellow draft-eligibles.
“Yeah, of course you look at them,” he said. “You look at them in the scoring races and on some of the draft boards that are above me. There’s competition everywhere.”
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