PHILADELPHIA — Every year when the NHL Draft rolls around hockey fans feel a little bit older when they look at the years that the prospects were born, as well as the former players related to these kids.
William Nylander is expected to be selected in the first round Friday night. Watching him from the stands when he dons the jersey and hat of his NHL team will be his father, Michael, who played 920 NHL games. Having spent 14 years in the U.S. while his dad played for seven teams, the younger Nylander spent time around the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Nicklas Backstrom and Jeremy Roenick and also saw what it takes to be a professional.
Having a former pro as a father gave William a leg up as he pursued a hockey a career of his own.
“He’s helped a lot,” said Nylander. “Going to the rink every day with him, seeing him play games on TV… just having him there every day, teaching me a lot of stuff I think a lot of other prospects in the draft will never hear from their father.
"He said work hard every day. That's what you got to do everytime you're on the ice. That's the most important thing."
Ranked second on NHL Central Scouting’s list of top European skaters behind another prospect with an ex-NHLer as a dad, Kasperi Kapanen, Nylander spent time this past season on three teams in Sweden, including a loan with Rogle, where he played with his dad. He then excelled at the U-18 World Championships where he led all players in scoring.
"[C]reates separation via an explosive short cross-over stride and superb lateral agility ... always looking for the perfect play which can cripple his game appearing to hold onto the puck too long or trying to do too much," says a McKeen's Hockey scouting report.
As with every prospect, there are plusses and minuses with their game. Those skills will develop over time as they progress. Despite having honed his skills playing against men for some time now, Nylander is still not satisfied.
“There’s a lot of stuff to work on always, every day,” he said. “There’s nothing I’m completely happy with in my game.”
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