Hakan Nordstrom/TT via thehockeyhouse.net
Every season, as I watch the junior hockey season play out all over the world, there are one or two prospects who really jump off the page at me and become my “favourites.” Since before people were even talking about the 2015 NHL Draft, Oliver Kylington was one of those favourites.
Coming into this season, he was regarded by many as a potential Top 5 pick in June, his incredible skating ability and elite offensive instincts from the blueline unique characteristics. Before Noah Hanifin, there was Oliver Kylington. He was supposed to be the consolation prize for missing out on McDavid and Eichel.
In fact, much – over exaggerated – ado was made about Kylington’s bouncing around from team to team this season (he played on 3 teams, 2 professional and one junior) and it probably contributed in some capacity to his military style free fall down the rankings. Everyone wondered why he couldn’t just stick somewhere like most players do and just play? Some conspired it to be an attitude issue, and that each team was simply passing its problem on to the next.
Well I say that’s false. Why? Because he didn’t just play on 3 different teams, he played in three different leagues(!!). He played in the SuperElit, the Allsvenskan and the SHL. In North American terms, he played in the CHL, AHL and NHL all in the same season. It wasn’t exactly as natural a progression as it might seem either, as he had half a season of SHL hockey under his belt coming into the year (he went JuniorElit —> SHL —> Allsvenskan).
What that says to me, is that Kylington is simply at an awkward spot in his development, where he was too good for junior but not quite good enough for the SHL, so he ended up somewhere in the middle. What he brings to the table is still the same: elite skating ability, vision, hockey IQ, shot and passing, all in a good size frame at six-foot, 183 pounds. You can’t find that just anywhere, and it just so happens it’s exactly what the Flames could use.
The problems with Kylington involve his awareness and effectiveness playing defence, but that comes from good coaching and development, something the Flames organization has put a major focus on. Let’s see what the scouts think.
One website specializing in mock drafts – mynhldraft.com – combined 7 of the most popular independent scouting rankings to formulate their, which they based their mock draft off of, listed Kylington’s amalgamated ranking at: 26
While there are large discrepancies between many of the rankings, a common denominator seems to emerge: Oliver Kylington is not a Top 10 prospect. That means he’ll probably be available for the Flames to take with the 15th overall pick.
Having said that, if you trust Craig Button, Kylington might also be available at the 45th overall pick.
It’s interesting to note he was inside the Top 10 of everyone’s ranking above coming into the season – like, literally everyone’s – and saw one of his most dramatic falls come at the hands of Craig Button who dropped him from 8th to 47th from January to now. Button, interestingly, also has highly regarded rearguard Noah Hanifin ranked 12th, with fellow American defenseman Zach Werenski ahead of him, but that’s a story for another day.
From EliteProspects: “A smart two-way defenseman, who has tremendous feeling for the game and reads the plays well. Oliver Kylington is only average sized, but lets you forget the missing inches with his hockey sense, his strong vision and remarkable skating abilities. Owns a good shot from the blue-line and combined with this very good puck- and passing-skills, he can guide a power-play and the team’s offensive game to success.”
From NHL Central Scouting: “He’s a talented first-round prospect. He’s an excellent, smooth skater. He’s an offensive defenseman with excellent vision and playmaking skills. He has very good eye-to-hand coordination, is dangerous on the power play. He has all the tools needed and is a finesse-type player.”
From Craig Button: “Arguably one of the very best skaters in the draft, Oliver dances on his blades with equally high-end speed, quickness and agility and makes it look incredibly effortless. His confidence seemed to falter at times and affect his productivity but a turnaround in this could eventually see him, being one of the draft’s best defence men.”
You’ll notice “power play” is included in 3 of the quotes, which makes sense because considering his skill set, that would be when he most excels. I find it interesting that some refer to him as a purely offensive talent while others like to sneak in “two-way defenseman” when describing him. You’d have to watch him on a consistent basis – which I have not – to really make that determination.
The reason I wanted to add in this quote, is because Woodlief is not alone in plummeting Kylington’s stock because of his Five Nations tournament performance. There are many who reference that when denouncing Kylington as an elite talent, and the premise of it all makes little sense to me. The most basic rule of thumb when scouting a player is to not buy in too much on really hot or really cold stretches, but evaluate over an extended period of time.
The fact that Kylington has one really bad tournament does not mean he’s a bad prospect. Having said that, to be considered an elite prospect nowadays, you need be nearly flawless, and a cold stretch can sink you if everyone else is on top of their game.
The numbers seem to tell the story quite well in regards to Kylington. They say he’s too good for junior level hockey in Sweden, having scored 28 points in his last 31 SuperElit games, and they suggest he’s struggled in the SHL, especially this season, putting up a paltry 5 points in 18 games all while being a minus player. Reinforcement to our earlier hypothesis stating just that.
Having said that, he’s only put up a shade better numbers in the Allsvenskan – 7 points in 17 games while still a minus player – where we concluded he belongs at this point in time. So has he struggled in the Allsvenskan too, or did he simply sustain a stretch of bad luck?
There are no advanced stats available that can shed light on this topic, so without having watched him extensively, it’s impossible to answer that question (it will be answered in the Scandinavian leg of our NHL Draft Scout Series, however).
So, going off the only information we have, in the form of counting stats, we can conclude that Oliver Kylington is an elite offensive defenseman in Swedish junior hockey, but isn’t the same scorer in the pro ranks. Be it he isn’t physically developed enough or just plain not good enough at this point in time, whoever drafts Oliver Kylington won’t be getting an NHL ready, first pairing 60 point scorer.
What they will be getting though, is a prospect who has displayed all the tools to evolve into something exactly like that with the proper nurturing and development
I mentioned Kylington reminded me much of Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson – who in 2008 was drafted in the same slot the Flames will occupy in June – and besides the similarities in the way the two play the game of ice hockey, their stats share striking similarities. Kylington graduated to the SHL a year early, but both him and Karlsson put up point-per-game averages in the SuperElit in their Draft -1 season, Kylington doing it over 21 games to Karlsson’s 10. Karlsson then played 38 games in the SuperElit in his draft year and posted 37 points, getting a cup of coffee in the SHL as well, registering a goal in 7 outings.
In total, Kylington has played 67 pro hockey games in Sweden coming into his draft, compared to Karlsson’s 7. Make no mistake, it’s astronomically difficult to be a 16/17 year old defenseman who’s strength is offence in the SHL. Everyone is stronger, faster, and has more rounded game than you do. The fact Kylington has all of this professional experience coming into the draft – on top of his proven offensive excellence at the junior level – makes him a potentially more attractive prospect than Karlsson was in 2008.
The area where Karlsson has(/had?) a significant leg up on Kylington is international competition. Although Karlsson did not play for Sweden’s World Junior Hockey team in his draft year, he did play extensively for the U18 team at the various tournaments – Ivan Hlinka and 5 Nations included – and absolutely stormed the competition. In total, he had 14 points in 17 games with Sweden’s U18 team, 7 of those points coming in 6 games at the Under-18 World Hockey Championship.
While Kylington did skate in 3 World Junior Championship games for Sweden – and was rendered pointless – his performances with the U-18 team left much to be desired. In some cases – the 5 Nations Cup specifically – he was atrocious. He had two assists in 5 games at the Under-18 World Hockey Championship and 5 points in 9 games with the U-18 team in total, but scouts never came away impressed. I personally didn’t watch him at these tournaments, but I’m willing to bet the issues arose inside his own blueline, with poor coverage and, at times decision making being his two largest vices wherever he plays.
My love for Oliver Kylington may seem irrational to some, but it needs to be taken in context. I love Oliver Kylington for the 15th overall pick. Getting the type of ceiling and raw ability he possess at this point in the draft is generally unheard of, which is exciting.
I wouldn’t be quite as ecstatic about him if the Flames were picking Top 10, because then there would be a plethora of others to be ecstatic about. He’s a fantastic talent and I certainly believe he’s worthy of being a Top 15 pick, but there’s a glut of prospects in and around the 15-40 range that are pretty much indiscernible at this point – in a good way.
They’re all excellent talents with high upside and scouts are having a tough time really nailing down a proper way to rank them, meaning there won’t be any obvious pick come June 26th, rather it’ll essentially come down to personal preference. We weren’t kidding you when we said this draft was deep. While I personally prefer Oliver Kylington to a lot of his peers, others don’t even have him in the first round.
To me, the skill set and upside is far too high to pass on. This isn’t Jankowski-type upside either, the guy has put up a pile of points in his age group, and has already graduated to the highest levels of hockey in his country, without being able to go out to the bar to celebrate with is new teammates afterwards. Whatever concerns exist with Kylington, they’re superficial and completely amenable in my opinion, and definitely don’t warrant him slipping out of the Top 30.
At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, I don’t think he gets passed the Los Angeles Kings at 13th overall.
Flames First Round Targets 2015