When Peter Nylander signed with the Chicago Wolves of the International Hockey League during the off-season, he hoped it would be more than just a chance to play in the same city as his brother. He hoped it might one day lead to an opportunity to become his teammate in the National Hockey League.
His older brother, Michael, is in his eighth season in the NHL and second with the Chicago Blackhawks. Peter figured the organization would give him a shot to make a name for himself with the Hawks' IHL affiliate.
But when the Blackhawks and New York Islanders sent several players down to the Wolves at the end of training camp, Nylander was the odd-man out.
Another door opened for the 24-year-old forward last week with the Augusta Lynx.
"I wanted to play in North America this season and prove myself over here," said Nylander, who played the past four seasons in Europe, including three in the Swedish Elite League. "I didn't get a chance in Chicago, and I knew some of the guys here in Augusta and felt I could come in and play well and maybe get an opportunity to move to the next level at some point."
The 6-foot, 195-pounder is billed as a gifted offensive player who Lynx coach Scott MacPherson believes will be a big-time point producer, once he gets into game shape. Speed and puck handling, especially, are his strengths.
"He had a bit of a layoff and wasn't playing, so it will probably take some time before you start to see what he's really capable of," MacPherson said. "Peter is a very talented player, though, and we're fortunate to have him. He's a guy who wants to try to make it in the American league or the IHL, and eventually get to where his brother is. All he needs is a chance."
For the native of Stockholm, Sweden, playing in the East Coast Hockey League is his first taste of North American hockey, and he figures it will take some time to adjust. The European game is played on a larger surface and is more wide open; in the United States and Canada, there is tighter checking and less free wheeling.
"I've noticed already that there is a lot more hitting and physical play over here, especially in this league," said Nylander, who signed with the Lynx during the recent road swing and made his debut in Friday's shootout loss at Mississippi.
While Peter spent the first four years of his pro career trying to establish himself in Europe, Michael made the jump from Swedish juniors right to the NHL. He was drafted in the third round by the Hartford Whalers in 1991 and debuted with the Whalers in 1992. He also played with the Calgary Flames from 1993-96 -- at the same time Lynx trainer Brian Patafie was the Flames' trainer -- and spent two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning before a trade to the Blackhawks last season.
"My brother and I are similar, but he is a very talented player who has a lot of skill," said Nylander, who scored four goals and added six assists in 50 games with Vasteras IK last season. "I've had to work a little bit harder than he has."
MacPherson, who worked as a scout for the Lightning last year, saw Nylander play during a European scouting trip. Nylander and Lynx defenseman Denis Chervyakov were teammates with Vasteras IK last season, and Nylander also played briefly in juniors with Lynx right wing Jonas Soling, who also grew up in Stockholm.
"I know Denis pretty well, and he told me I should come play in Augusta because it was a good place to play, and he felt like the team was going to be strong," Nylander said. "I also know Jonas, and you've got another Swede on the team, also (defenseman Likit Andersson). It seemed like a good opportunity to come play here."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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