Nylander impresses in Chicago Blackhawks' scrimmage

  • Forward Alexander Nylander, shown here with the Buffalo Sabres last season, figures to get every chance to make the Chicago Blackhawks' roster.

    Forward Alexander Nylander, shown here with the Buffalo Sabres last season, figures to get every chance to make the Chicago Blackhawks' roster. Associated Press file/March 12, 2019

Updated 9/15/2019 6:58 PM

All young, promising hockey players know there's only so much time to prove themselves.

Waste too many chances and your career will end in a hurry.


That said, Chicago Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton had to like what he saw out of Alex Nylander during the team's intrasquad scrimmage Sunday at the United Center.

Paired with Jonathan Toews and Anton Wedin, the 21-year-old Nylander scored on a penalty shot during his team's 3-1 victory and helped his line control play much of the afternoon.

"He's got a great shot, great release and I thought that line was really good," Colliton said.

The Hawks took a big chance in acquiring Nylander from Buffalo this past off-season for defenseman Henri Jokiharju, so they figure to give the 6-foot-1, 192-pound forward every chance to make the team.

Colliton wants to see the obvious stuff -- such as a willingness to compete for pucks and the ability to play up and down the lineup -- but he also wants Nylander to understand what it takes to play without the puck as well.

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"He can fly," Colliton said. "You can see when he's hunting … he can really skate. We're going to want him to show us that persistence away from the puck to try and get it back."

Nylander was the eighth overall pick of the Sabres in 2016, but he has played in only 19 NHL games.

"I've had a great summer training," he said. "(I) had a little bit of injuries last year, but all that's really good now and I feel really good on the ice."

Some other observations from Sunday's scrimmage:

Offensive Olli: Olli Maatta has always been known as a stay-at-home defenseman, but he showed off his passing skills late in the first period by finding a wide-open Brandon Saad in front of the net.

Saad had an easy tap-in to give Team Red a 1-0 lead.

Afterward, Colliton raved about Maatta, whom the Hawks acquired in exchange for Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in June.

"Of course everyone likes to chip in, but I think he really influences play positively with the puck," Colliton said. "He does a lot of good things, whether it's on retrievals or just being clean with it.


"He defended well tonight, too. Moved well, closed on guys, was able to transition us from defending to going the other way. It was good to see."

Stunning scoreboard: The first thing most fans must have noticed upon entering the United Center was the size of the new scoreboard. It has 8,600 square feet of 4 mm pixel pitch display and has nearly four times more LED screen display than the old scoreboard.

"I don't think there was anything wrong with the scoreboard before compared to some rinks," forward Dylan Strome said. "Now it's just huge. … I'm sure the fans like it."

Players figure to as well. They will be able to watch replays and check out their stats on the bottom when it is activated for the first preseason game against Detroit on Wednesday.

Tap-ins:  Duncan Keith and Andrew Shaw were definitely playing like this was more than a scrimmage. Keith was battling hard in corners, while Shaw decked Anton Wedin just after Wedin fired a first-period shot that found its way past goalie Robin Lehner.

"That's what (Shaw) brings," Colliton said. "He plays on the edge, he finishes his checks, he stirs it up out there. It was good to have a little emotion. It brings a level up (and) makes the game more valuable for us."

• Erik Gustafsson is already in midseason form. The 27-year-old D-man had numerous scoring chances, but his most impressive move came when he faked out Dominik Kubalik in the offensive zone. He proceeded to fire a bullet on net that Corey Crawford managed to turn away.

• Kris Versteeg still looks quick and handles the puck extremely well in traffic. The 33-year-old veteran is expected to start the season in Rockford and help mentor players who are on the verge of breaking into the NHL.

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