Button: Nylander needs to show his worth to the Sabres

February 11, 2018

This season has been rough for Buffalo Sabres prospect Alexander Nylander. The 19-year old is struggling to find his game in 27 games with the Rochester Americans this season, scoring just two goals and registering nine points in the span.

Buffalo's first round pick (8th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft did suffer a significant lower-body injury to start the season and may not be at full health, but many people have been more down on Nylander than in past years.

TSN's Craig Button has been following Nylander since he was 15-years old, and has been high on Nylander's potential in the National Hockey League. Last year, Button had Nylander ranked as the second best NHL prospect in the league, but this year has him slotted as the 25th best NHL prospect. While he sees the potential and knows the skill that Nylander has, Button understands that it is time for Nylander to step up his game to the next level.

"I've seen Alex Nylander compete and play hard and make a difference in games. I even saw glimpses of it at the World Junior tournament," Button said with Brayton Wilson and Joe DiBiase on Sports Talk Sunday on WGR. "To me, Alex has the potential to be an elite player. If I just wanted to do what I thought their absolute potential was, not just their potential plus how they've been playing, I would have him a lot higher. Alex is going to have to show that he's worthy of being the eighth overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres.

"I recognize his skill; I recognize the ability; I recognize his qualities to be a really good NHL player in a lot of different ways. I've given him a little bit of the benefit of the doubt at 25, to be quite frank with you. His (2018) World Junior tournament was incredibly disappointing. He could have been a difference maker in his third World Junior tournament, and it wasn't very good."

With the lack of strong play from Nylander, and given where the Sabres are in the NHL standings once again, there has been some talk as to trading the young prospect and getting some sort of value before it is too late. However, Button believes that it is too early to give up on the 19-year old skilled winger just yet.

"His play in the American Hockey League [has not been] very inspiring," Button said. "Do you give up on the player? Be really careful about trading a highly skilled, really intelligent player because he's having a little bit of an off year. I don't think he should have ever been in the American Hockey League last year. I thought that was a massive mistake to have Alex Nylander in the American Hockey League. You have that situation where you put a player in a league where I don't think he was ready to handle it, it's a really challenging league, and now that affects it."

One example he used to stray fans away from trading Nylander was the Pittsburgh Penguins trading away forward Markus Naslund to the Vancouver Canucks. The Penguins traded Naslund in 1996 after he put up just 67 points in 151 games in parts of three seasons in Pittsburgh. After the trade, Naslund went on to produce 756 points in 884 games with the Canucks in parts of 12 seasons in Vancouver.

In addition to Nylander being on his top-50 NHL prospects list, Button also had 2017 first round pick Casey Mittelstadt on the list as his fifth-ranked NHL prospect. Also, 2016 second round pick Rasmus Asplund was on the list coming in at 39th.

Button also talked a good deal about the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, as well as the Sabres' future without Jack Eichel in the lineup moving forward. You can listen to Button's entire interview below: