William Nylander (Getty Images)
Michael Nylander's son will most likely be the first player from a European team taken on Friday and for a teenager, he has already covered a lot of ground during his hockey career.
One of the reasons William Nylander is pegged to go so high at the NHL draft in Philadelphia this weekend is that he's hard to catch up with on the ice. The center/right winger has electrifying hands and eye-catching moves, but he was also hard to pin down geographically this season.
Nylander, the son of former NHLer Michael Nylander, played for three different Swedish clubs in 2013-14. Along with playing in the Swedish League with Modo, Nylander was also loaned out to Rogle and Sodertalje in the Allsvenskan, one division below the SHL. Not that the moving around phased him.
“I played for one team the year before, so that wasn't much of an adjustment," he said. "I had a couple friends on one team and then I got to play with my dad on the other team. All I needed was to play a lot because it was an important year.”
Though his father played for Rogle, William played some of his best hockey with Sodertalje, where he paired up with fellow potential 2014 first-rounder David Pastrnak to make magic.
“We had played before for the junior team," Nylander said. "The chemistry has always been there between us. We play sort of the same game. He sees the ice really well, he can score goals and make amazing plays. Amazing guy off the ice, too.”
What is really intriguing about Nylander is that he is a free agent right now, a rarity for a player his age in Sweden. He certainly has the skills to jump straight to the NHL, but his frame could use some bulking up. And playing against men back home on the team of his choosing (he won't put much thought into that until after the draft) would be a great development option, too. After all, it's not like Nylander needs to see the world.
Born in Calgary, Nylander also spent time in Chicago with the Mission youth team. One year, his linemates were Nick Schmaltz and Christian Dvorak, two players also up for the draft in Philadelphia. Schmaltz may go in the first round while a big knee injury hampered Dvorak and likely makes him a mid-rounder, but that's an impressive trio for midget hockey.
“Back then you had no idea," Nylander said. "Thinking back, we must have had an unreal line. We had fun every time we got on the ice together.”
And talent evaluators have fun anytime Nylander is on his game now.
"Outstanding with the puck," said one NHL scout. "When you go to the game as a scout, you want to pay for your ticket just to see him."
While his NHL lineage helps with familiarity, William certainly had to carve his own path this season and as winding as it was, the journey still hasn't quite finished. No one knows how the draft order is going down on Friday thanks to a logjam at the top of the rankings. But father Michael did give his boy some advice heading into Philly.
“Anything can happen, so don't have your mind set on one thing," William said. "Just take in this great event and have a good time.”