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NHL Draft

Sabres' pick Nylander gets warm welcome

No. 8 selection 'never heard a louder crowd' than at Buffalo arena

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- The scene for the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft left a big impression on all players selected, none more so than Alexander Nylander.

The Buffalo Sabres chose the left wing from Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League with the No. 8 pick. The sellout crowd at First Niagara Center roared for Nylander as he walked to the stage, and as he was introduced, the applause grew louder. Nylander broke into a big smile as he posed with members of the Sabres executive and scouting staffs.

"It was unbelievable," Nylander said. "I've never heard a louder crowd than that, so that was a really big moment for me. It was a dream come true and just unbelievable."

Nylander was familiar with what it's like to be at the NHL Draft when his brother, William Nylander, was taken in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, coincidentally also at No. 8, in Philadelphia. This time it was his turn in the spotlight with his brother watching him.

"It was quite similar, because when I was at my brother's draft, it felt like I was getting drafted," Alexander said. "But [today I got] a little nervous. Then the nerves went away and came back when it was going from 5 to 8. Just an unbelievable moment, just enjoying every minute of it."

Video: Alexander Nylander interview video

Sabres general manager Tim Murray identified Nylander as one of three players he targeted who might've been available when it was their turn, and he resisted trade offers from teams picking behind Buffalo.

"[He has] skill. Skill, skating, the whole package," Murray said. "I don't think it's any different for us, but you hear everyone in the League talking after Pittsburgh wins (the Stanley Cup) about speed and skill and that. I mean, that's what we've been trying to do here there last couple years and we don't have enough of it yet. We've made great strides, but to add a guy like him that we think is a top-six forward that we can fit into our blueprint."

Nylander joins the Sabres at a time when they're rebuilding through the draft with speed and skill. He will eventually join 2015 No. 2 pick Jack Eichel and 2014 No. 2 pick Sam Reinhart at forward and could eventually make up a line with those two.

"Oh, it's going to be unbelievable," Nylander said. "Two great players, amazing players; they find you anywhere on the ice to make you better as a player, and it's just going to be something I'm really looking forward to."

Where Nylander, who turned 18 in March, plays next season is undetermined. He scored 28 goals with 75 points with Mississauga this season but was on loan to the OHL from Sweden. Nylander could return to Mississauga or go back to Sweden, but he could play in the American Hockey League or with the Sabres.

"I'm just trying, of course, to do everything I can this summer to be as prepared this summer for the NHL and try to make the team and I'm just going to do that," Nylander said. "It's going to be a lot of fun going into next year."

Alexander's father, Michael Nylander, was a 15-year NHL veteran who had 679 points in 920 games with seven teams.

"As I told [Alexander] today, I had his dad in New York (with the Rangers), and [Michael] turned around to look to see who said that, and I said, 'I know. I'm really old,'" Murray, 52, said. "And he said, 'That was a good team though and a really good line, eh?' And I said, 'It was.' What it does is, he has a brother that was drafted already who's been through a year of pro; his dad's been through it. He has a little more insight than players from non-hockey families on what it takes and how hard it is to get to the next level. There should be no surprises to him down the road as far as his development."

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