August 29 2016 08:00AM
Oliver Kylington was a lighting rod of controversy all through his pre-draft years. Everything from his innate skill to his supposed attitude problems to his erratic draft ranking status was bantered about for years prior to Brad Treliving hollering out his name at 2015 NHL Draft, making him the 60th name yelled at the annual child lottery.
And then it all stopped.
Sure, there was some buzz about him right after the pick was made and at development camp, but after that he made his way to Stockton and the nationwide hype stopped.
Kylington’s development did not, however. And that’s why he arrives inside our Top 5 FlamesNation prospects. He was #4 last year.
A Brief History
Kylington moseyed his way to Stockton Heat camp as a fresh faced 18-year-old and made the team out of camp, making him one of the youngest skaters in the entire American Hockey League. Kylington literally played against guys twice his age. That is insane, and nearly unheard of.
His defensive deficiencies came just as advertised - much like his offensive prowess - and Ryan Huska & Co. went to work on polishing off a real diamond in the rough. Kylington quickly progressed in all facets of his game, batting a couple injuries along the way, and finished the season among the Heat’s most trusted blueliners.
While the eye popping offensive numbers weren’t exactly there for Kylington, he still put up respectable counting stats considering his age, and even had a cup of coffee - well, maybe an expresso shot - with the NHL club at season's end, where he looked anything but out of place.
With weakness comes great potential to improve. As mentioned, Kylington’s struggles came primarily on the defensive side of the puck, and as Stockton Heat Head Coach Ryan Huska noted, that’s where his greatest improvement came, too.
"Play away from the puck is one area he improved pretty significantly. I think he did a good job of really focusing on the defending side of the game, where that was one area that we talked to him about at the beginning part of the year was that we wanted to see improvements to the defending side of the game without losing his ability to generate offense. And he did that for us.”
"There weren't as many high-risk plays, he didn't try to beat as many people one-on-one, he was moving pucks at the end of the year and then working to get himself open to get passes back. So I think he was becoming a more responsible player, and a player that eventually can play in the NHL full-time.”
In terms of moving into next season and moving towards fulfilling that prophecy of becoming a full-time NHLer, Huska outlined his future plans for the young Swede.
"For him this year, it's a lot of the same. We want to see him continue to get better defensively, so whatever coach is using him trusts him at both ends of the ice, but we also want to see him being comfortable getting himself involved in the offense for our team both on the power-play and five-on-five. When you look at him this year, he's going to need to be a big piece of the power-play on the back-end this year and that's something we're going to be challenging him with as well.”
What Comes Next?
As Huska mentioned, the next step for Kylington is moving from a fringe AHLer to a prominent AHLer. He needs to continue working on his defensive deficiencies while also stepping into a bigger role on the Heat offensively.
He’ll need to impose his will offensively using his speed and skill, and unlike last year, will have results expected of him. The counting numbers will matter a lot more come next spring than they did this one. You can’t take development camp too seriously, but judging by how he looked there, Kylington looks poised to embrace his new role just fine.
Read more: Oliver Kylington has confidence
Kylington will go in the 2016-17 season as one of the Flames’ top reserve guys in case of injury. A strong showing at NHL training camp and quick start to the season could further accelerate what feels like an inevitable full-time spot on the NHL roster. His tools and potential are just too exciting.
Meanwhile, I’ll just keep tweeting snarky things at all the haters who bought into the anti-Kylington propaganda prior to the 2015 NHL Draft, and enjoy every second of it.
The kid can play.
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