This was supposed to be a breakout season for Alex Nylander.
The former eighth-overall pick from the 2016 NHL draft was acquired by the Blackhawks prior to the 2019-20 season in a one-for-one trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Henri Jokiharju. Nylander came to the Blackhawks looking to be a top-six player who could pair well with Kirby Dach, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews in one of the top lines for Chicago. He played in 65 of 70 games last season, scoring 10 goals and 26 points during the regular season, before dressing for eight of the Blackhawks’ nine postseason games (though he did not record a point).
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to live up to those expectations with any sort of consistency, and some animosity from the fan base began to grow (particularly because of the acquisition cost). But then things got worse. Prior to training camp, Nylander underwent knee surgery that would keep him out 4-6 months – a timetable that virtually eliminated any possibility of returning this season, while sending him into this upcoming offseason on an expiring entry-level contract as a restricted free agent.
The one-for-one trade looks like a loss for the Blackhawks after one season, with Jokiharju playing a serviceable role for the Sabres in their defensive rotation, the same kind of role he was getting comfortable playing in Chicago as a 19-year-old.
But of course there’s still hope!
— Alex Nylander (@snipeshow98) February 16, 2021
Nylander is still 22-years-old (turning 23 in March), and has a long career ahead of him.
And from the looks of it on social media, he’s progressing just fine in his recovery.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) February 17, 2021
In the off-chance that Nylander is able to come back to the Blackhawks before the end of the regular season, he could find himself in a battle to get on the ice after the emergence of a number of rookies this season for Chicago. If he does miss the entire season, the Blackhawks could very well bring Nylander back for his age 23-24 season on a very, very cheap one-year “show me” deal, and I’d be in favor of that.
Here’s to a full and speedy recovery for Alex!