BUFFALO – Sabres winger Alexander Nylander mentioned it few times during his short chat with the media this afternoon.
“I’m ready for this,” the rookie said following practice inside KeyBank Center.
So far, through four outings, it would be tough to argue with Nylander. The former eighth overall pick has been showcasing his slick skill and looking more comfortable each game beside center Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary.
In Sunday afternoon’s 4-3 shootout win, the Swede played his best NHL contest, registering two assists.
The Sabres, of course, promoted Nylander, 21, from the Rochester Americans late in each of his first two AHL seasons.
This year, however, the enigmatic prospect appears to finally be seizing his chance.
“He’s taking advantage of the opportunity,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “Each and every game he’s seems to get better. His linemates are helping him out, they play a fast game. He’s just getting more confident down low, in the corner. He’s driving on cycles, he’s making plays up ice and he’s using his speed.
“I really like his shot mentality last game. Coming off the wing, he was thinking about shot entering the offensive zone. He’s got to continue to shoot pucks.”
While Nylander will likely return to the AHL for the playoffs, he might’ve played his last regular-season game. He could force the Sabres to keep him.
“I had a really good training camp this year,” Nylander said. “I’m obviously here to prove that I can stay. I think I’m obviously ready for this.”
He added: “I feel just really good. I’m just going to keep going the way I’m playing.”
Nylander should face his brother, Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, on Wednesday in Buffalo.
Check back later for more on the brothers and the Leafs, who have beaten the Sabres four straight meetings for the first time since 1971-72.
In other news, Sabres forward prospect Matej Pekar, 19, has been assigned to the Amerks from the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts.
Pekar, a fourth-round pick in 2018, 94th overall, hasn’t played since breaking his collarbone Jan. 10. The Colts’ season recently ended.
The Czech, whose agitating style stood out during development camp, might spend his time in Rochester practicing.
“We’re pleased that Matej will be joining us in Rochester as part of continuing his development process,” Amerks general manager Randy Sexton said in a statement. “He is coming off a long-term injury, so whether he plays games remains to be seen. More importantly, he’ll have the opportunity to immerse himself in the pro hockey environment, which we believe is a critical component of any young player’s development.”
Pekar scored 14 goals and 36 points in 33 games in his first junior campaign.