International Ice Hockey Federation

A Nylander strikes again

A Nylander strikes again

Alexander not just William’s brother and Michael’s son

Published 30.12.2015 12:45 GMT+2 | Author Risto Pakarinen
A Nylander strikes again
HELSINKI, FINLAND - DECEMBER 26: Sweden's Alexander Nylander #19 battles for the puck with Switzerland's Marco Forrer #9 during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
It says "A Nylander" on his back. It is his name, but it could also be a way to describe him. Alexander is a Nylander: a highly skilled forward.

Brother William has two years of seniority on him and he gets to be simply Nylander, the original. Except that the original highly skilled player, a talented goal scorer, and a forward who could tip the balance of a game by doing something unexpected was their father, Michael.

That's what he built his impressive career on, and it spanned over 26 years – and 26 clubs. Now he’s grooming the next generation of Nylanders to become even better than their old man. 

And they are well on their way. 

William, 19, was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, 8th overall, in 2014, and the leading scorer in the AHL this season with 34 points in 27 games. Alexander, 17, scored 40 points in 45 games in the Swedish major junior league last season and has 49 points in 33 games with the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL this season. 

In Sweden’s game against the U.S., Alexander showed his skills when he finished his breakaway with a snappy backhander. Just the memory of it makes him laugh. 

“Yeah, that was a good one,” he says and adds that it’s a move his father keeps on talking to him about. 

The brothers’ dream of playing together at the World Juniors was cut short by William’s head injury in Sweden’s first game against Switzerland, but while Alexander waits for his brother to come back, he’s taken charge in the tournament, and has five points in Sweden’s two games. 

Playing together has been a dream because it’s been a rare occasion. 

During Michael’s NHL career the whole family stayed together, but as the boys got older and Michael played in Europe, he often went on his own. And last season William moved to MODO Ornskoldsvik, while Alexander stayed in Stockholm. 

This season, though, the three Nylanders, Michael & Sons, have all been in Toronto. William with the Toronto Marlies, Alexander with the Steelheads where Michael is an assistant coach. 

“I knew after the Ivan Hlinka tournament that they’d probably draft me and they made the offer to Dad as well. It as a pretty easy decision for him,” Alexander told on Sweden’s off day. 

“It’s been fun to live in Toronto with my brother.  We didn’t see each other that much when he was with MODO, and I was with AIK (with Michael),” he says. 

It’s only natural that William, who’s two years older than Alexander, has been someone Alex has looked up to all his life. 

“I’ve always looked up to him, and we’ve always tried to see each other’s game as much as possible, and to help each other,” he says. 

Now, that doesn’t mean William would be untouchable within the family. No, no, in a pre-tournament interview with Swedish Dagens Nyheter, Alexander declared that Michael had dropped to third place in the family’s ranking. 

“And since I’m number one, William is number two,” he said. 

But that only applies within the family. People outside the family should know that the Nylanders will stick together, rain or shine. So when Switzerland’s Chris Egli hit William in the neutral zone in Sweden’s first game, two things went through Alexander’s mind. 

“It was tough and scary to see. I just thought that the guy who did it, was going to get it,” Alexander says. 

Now, the Nylander men’s life in Toronto is good. It’s mostly hockey, but not all hockey. William is likely to make his NHL debut later this season, and Alexander is in the middle of his international breakthrough, looking forward to the NHL draft in Buffalo in June. 

Alexander is expected to go early, very early, in the draft. Meanwhile, a glance at the NHL standings tells us that the Maple Leafs are currently 27th. Maybe the Nylanders can become The Sedins 2.0?

“It would be great if the Leafs drafted. It’d be a dream come true, to play in the NHL together, that’d be a blast. Now I just have to prove everybody that I’m worth an early pick,” Alexander says. 

But first, the World Juniors. Sweden has six points after wins over Switzerland and Team USA, and have a good chance to come out on top in the group, and play the fourth seeded team in the other group in the quarter-final. It may all come down to Sweden’s last game, against Canada. 

“We have a good chance to win the group, but we just need to keep on playing like we have up until now. All teams are good here,” says Nylander who’s having a great time his first World Junior Championship. 

“Oh, it’s been so much fun. Really fun. Life’s good.”


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