One of the Blackhawks players with the most to prove may not have the opportunity to do that in the upcoming season.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks announced that forward Alex Nylander had successful surgery on Monday, repairing a meniscus tear in his left knee. Although the operation was a success, Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said that Nylander will be out approximately 4-6 months.
Alex Nylander sustained a knee injury during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 23, 2020
He initially rested and trained conservatively; unfortunately, his symptoms came back when he started to skate. https://t.co/2oQHB2tB6f
And that timeline was only for Nylander’s return to “hockey related activities.” Considering the 2021 NHL regular season will end in just over four months, there’s a very real possibility that Nylander will not play for the Blackhawks this season.
It’s a massive blow for Nylander, who came to the Blackhawks on July 9, 2019 in a controversial trade with the Sabres for defenseman Henri Jokiharju, a former first-round pick of the Blackhawks (29th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft. Nylander was a former first-round pick himself, going to Buffalo No. 8 overall in the 2016 NHL Draft.
But Nylander struggled to find consistent playing time with the Sabres, appearing in just 19 games over the course of three seasons while tallying just three goals and three assists. He had an up-and-down initial season in Chicago, scoring 10 goals with 16 assists in 65 games with play that was sometimes impressive and sometimes not, displaying the inconsistency that plagued him in Buffalo.
Nylander’s most recent hockey appearances inspired little confidence, though. He opened the 2020 postseason by playing on Chicago’s top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He ended it as a healthy scratch after failing to register a point in eight games.
It’s possible the knee injury he sustained can be used as justification for his subpar postseason performance. But missing out an entire season of hockey is not going to help the development of a 22-year-old forward whose future with the franchise remains very much in question.
Nylander is in the final year of his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent in the 2021 offseason.