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Penguins May Have Diamond in The Rough With Alex Nylander.

Alex Nylander could be poised for a spot on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins' roster is filled with questions heading into the 2022-2023 season. The biggest question of those is what players will make up the bottom six forwards? Enter Alex Nylander. The 24 year-old forward will be one of several players vying for a roster spot, and there's plenty of reason to believe the young forward will contribute to the Penguins' success this season. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Alex Nylander last season in a one-for-one trade, sending forward Sam Lafferty to Chicago in return. Management immediately expressed excitement about Nylander and the high hopes they had for his development. He responded with 30 points in 44 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. Nylander followed that up by leading the Baby Pens in scoring during the postseason, with six points in six games. 

What stood out most about Nylander’s game is his skating ability with the puck. As a former first round pick, Nylander’s offensive IQ is well noted it especially evident when the puck is on his stick. Take a look at this series clinching goal scored by Nylander this past season for a great example of his vision and puck movement. He moves into the offensive zone with speed, confidence, and poise, backing off the defensemen enough to open a lane for his NHL-level shot. He showed that ability to walk into the offensive zone and create plays often after his arrival in Wilkes-Barre. 

Alex Nylander also brings another weapon with him to the Pittsburgh roster: power play skills. In all of his junior career and throughout his brief professional one, he's consistently been a top power play unit player. With comfortability on either side of the ice, Nylander's versatility is another way he makes himself available during the power play. Watch the highlights from a game this past season to see this first-hand. Nylander scores two power play goals, including the game winner, and does so in totally different ways.

In the first power-play goal, he's playing as the extra attacker, rotating between the right face-off dot and the blue line. He makes himself available for a pass, and fires off a wicked wrist shot that trickles in for a goal. In the second, game winning goal, Nylander occupies the point in a four man unit. After moving the puck around the offensive zone, he steps into a one-time slap shot and blasts it past the goaltender to seal the win. He displays all of his best traits in these highlights: his elusive skating, his offensive zone savvy, his lethal shot, and his overall NHL ready game. 

After struggling through two horrific franchises in Buffalo and Chicago and a season lost entirely to injury, there's still so much to love and project about Alex Nylander. His offensive skills have graduated from the AHL, that is unquestioned. What remains in question, still, is his two-way ability, something the Pittsburgh Penguins system demands of their forwards. 

Alex Nylander wasn't asked to play much defense at any point in his career, and that is the biggest reason he hasn't found himself a permanent place at the NHL level. In order to find a place in Mike Sullivan's lineup, however, he'll have to score and be responsible in his own end. His 2021-2022 season proved he's more than capable of doing just that, and now he has to carry over that success to training camp. If he can find that consistency at the NHL level that he has lacked, he will be not only an exciting, but a productive addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins forward depth. 

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