International Ice Hockey Federation

Nylanders to join forces?

Nylanders to join forces?

Brothers hope to play together in Helsinki

Published 29.11.2015 10:52 GMT+2 | Author Jeremy Darke
Nylanders to join forces?
William Nylander (left) may get the opportunity to play at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship together with his younger brother Alexander. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
It’s just weeks left before Sweden’s 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship squad will be announced.

Many young Swedes are pushing hard in their respective league’s all around the world to leave final impressions on head coach Rickard Gronborg in hope of displaying that special something that will give them the nod in front of the many other talented under 20’s from their country.

17-year-old Alexander Nylander is no exception to this group, even though he is two years younger than many of the up and coming hopefuls vying for their position on the roster. It is not only the pride of putting on the blue and yellow jersey of the Juniorkronorna that is motivating and inspiring him to give his all in the OHL, for the Mississauga Steelheads, it is the opportunity of playing for his country on the same team as his 19-year-old brother William Nylander.

Even though there is only a two-year age difference between William and Alexander, they have both been so elite in their own age group in their junior years that they have never played on the same team with each other, even at club level, besides one minor tournament when they were very young.

The rare opportunity to combine for the first time in their registered playing careers at an international level is a dream come true, especially for younger brother Alexander.

“That would be an unbelievable experience,” said Alexander to the Canadian Press. “To be able to play with my brother would be just amazing. It’s something I dream of, actually.”

Although, playing in different leagues, both Alexander and William have found themselves reunited over the Atlantic sea from their home country, Sweden, living in the Toronto area under the same roof with their father, Michael Nylander.

Michael has 920 NHL games experience to pass on to his two sons over the dinner table, but also has more of a hands-on chance with younger son Alexander and his Steelheads teammates, taking on the role of an assistant coach of the Mississauga team at the beginning of the season.

William Nylander, who plays for the near-by Toronto Marlies in the AHL, has his spot secured in Sweden’s WJC team after leading his country in scoring in the 2015 World Junior Championship earlier this year, posting 3 goals and 7 assists. His current form for the Marlies has only emphasized how much of a commodity William will be to the Swedish team in Helsinki, leading the entire AHL after 16 games with 21 points (9G+12A).

The only shadow on William Nylander’s inclusion on the Swedish U20 national team would be if there was an unlikely stop by the Toronto Maple Leafs, who William is contracted to. If the Maple Leafs were to call William up to the NHL between now and Christmas, the likelihood of him joining the team would fall considerably. Although, with the Leafs finding a little form after their tough start to the NHL season, a call-up for the older brother does not currently look feasible.

For younger brother Alexander, the path to selection in the 2016 World Juniors squad is a little more ambivalent, but certainly not unlikely. The high-speed winger knew that his point-per-game form in Sweden’s junior 20 league, for AIK Stockholm last season, was not going to get him a look into the U20 national team this season. He knew that he had to do something special from the get-go this year if he was going to catch the eye of head coach Rikard Gronborg and be any chance of making the squad in Helsinki, and something special he has done.

Alexander has gotten off to a flying start for the Mississauga Steelheads, currently sitting sixth in the league’s point scorers list, with 16 goals and 19 assists in 24 games. His 35 point tally is double the scoring productivity of any other rookie in the league.

Earlier this month, coach Rikard Gronborg got wind of young Nylander’s form, from his scouts in Canada, and extended his pre-planned scouting trip to North America, making a trip especially to Toronto to meet Alexander and see him play.

“I have had good indications and reports from scouts over there and I want to see where he is at,” said a curious Gronborg to earlier this month. “I have rebooked my trip and I am going to spend a few days in Toronto. Hopefully, I get a chance to see and meet Alex there. He has had a good (development) curve in the OHL and was really good in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament.

“I have not coached Alex. I am quite curious and I want to see him to find out more about how he is as a person. It will be interesting to see how far he has come in his development and how to use him.”

During Gronborg’s time in Toronto to see Alexander, he was certainly not disappointed. Nylander scored a short-handed goal and registered an assist in the Steelheads’ 5-1 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs, solidifying all the rumours around him about his talent, in front of Gronborg, himself.

Coach Gronborg sees many similarities in the style of play of both Alexander and William but also sees many differences as well.

“They both have offensive strength. Then I think maybe that Alex is more a creator and William more of a finisher,” analyses Gronborg. “Both are right shooters with the same size, but have slightly different personalities.”

If Gronborg finds room for Alexander Nylander on his roster for the World Juniors in Helsinki, it will be a priceless opportunity for him to perform and further push his claim for a top-10 pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and outdo his brother William, who was the number 8 pick in the 2014 draft.


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