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Nylander following brother, father's footsteps

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

It’s not Alexander Nylander’s first go-round.

He’s sat in the stands, uncomfortably, before.

Sweating it out. Fidgeting in his seat.

Waiting to hear the Nylander name called out from the stage.

Jumping up to his feet in excitement when he does.

All for his brother, William Nylander, who pulled a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey over his head with (former director of amateur scouting) Dave Morrison flanking him on the left and then coach Randy Carlyle on the right as the eighth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

He’s got the experience.

And the memories.

“Just sitting in the seats … I was nervous,” the younger Nylander said. “The whole crowd got quiet. The first teams started calling out the names. It was nervous. At the same time, it’s a lot of fun. Just seeing him get drafted was a great moment for us.”

He now eagerly awaits his moment.

The excitement? Understandable.

So too are the nerves.

“It’s going to be me,” he said. “I’ll be a little bit nervous. I think since I went through it with him it’s going to be a little bit easier for him. It was good for me to go through it.”

Expectations are high on Nylander.

He finished third among North American skaters in both Central Scouting’s midterm and final ranking behind only Pierre-Luc Dubois of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Matthew Tkachuk of the London Knights.

With good cause.

The Mississauga Steelheads freshman recorded 75 points, including 28 goals, in 57 games this season to establish a new franchise record. The Ontario Hockey League named Nylander as the 2015-16 recipient of the Emms Family Award presented to the OHL’s Rookie of the Year in April.

In May, Nylander was announced as the Canadian Hockey League’s CCM Rookie of the Year.

All after being selected 12th overall by Mississauga in the 2015 CHL Import Draft nearly 12 months ago.

“I thought it was a great idea for me to come over here to the OHL from Sweden,” said Nylander, who added six goals and 12 points in six games. “Since I came over, I’ve learned a lot of new things, improved on a lot of stuff. It’s been really good.”

He’s had some good tutelage along the way.

His brother is a clear influence.

So too is his father, Michael Nylander, who also served as an assistant coach in 2015-16 for the Steelheads.

Micheal, of course, played 920 games in the National Hockey League, with stops with the Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. He amassed 209 goals and 679 points along the way.

“I think my dad has helped me a lot this year and throughout my whole career,” Nylander said. “My brother has been there for most of it. Those are the two that have helped me a lot through my hockey career.”

That includes his draft season.

A journey that will culminate with a final stop in Buffalo.

And a trip to the main stage.

Like his brother.

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” Nylander said. “It’s going to be one of the best days of my life. I’m looking forward to it a lot.”

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