FlamesNation Prospect Profile: #4 Oliver Kylington

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When the 2014/15 NHL Season was about to get underway, there
was a mild disappointment in the air in Calgary as just about everybody agreed
the team was a tad too good to be in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes.

There was however a shot they could finish bottom 5, and
that personally got me uber excited, because it put them right in the
wheelhouse to draft Swedish wunderkind Oliver Kylington (at that time, with the
‘killer’ pronunciation of: Killing-ton).

Kylington was fresh off a full SHL season as a 16 year old,
and had got most everybody in Swedish hockey all hot and bothered with his
oozing of potential.

He looked like the surefire second coming of Erik Karlsson.

He was the youngest player ever to score a goal in the SHL,
and he skated faster than a Koenigsegg. Trying to compute his PCS% isn’t even
possible because he has no cohorts. Oliver Kylington was a trailblazer, and a
damn good one.

The first time I saw him was on an online stream of a
Farjestad game, and I couldn’t believe this one guy who went end to end, with
no issue, multiple times during one shift. I searched up his number and was
floored to discover he was a 16 year old! He wasn’t even eligible for the
upcoming draft, which at that time was the 2014 NHL Draft.

As the 2014/15 season wore on though, the Flames’
performance dragged people’s minds away from the draft, and reports of defensive
deficiencies dragged Kylington down the rankings a bit, floating around the
5-10 range in about January.

And then the sky dive began.

By the time it was all said and done, Oliver Kylington
wasn’t a 1st round prospect in the eyes of just about everyone, and
trashing him was the cool thing to do on Twitter.

Why? Because he was bad at ONE TOURNAMENT and had “attitude
issues”. Here’s how a teenager acquires bad attitude in 2015: Says or does
something that a prude-y adult doesn’t like. Only when you’re a top hockey
prospect and that one adult happens to be a scout, it’ll probably result in
some negative repercussions for you.

(I fiercely defended him in this mammoth piece,
but was in a distinct minority in doing so. Everyone was set on the idea that
Oliver Kylington was bad news.)

Sure enough, teams would avoid Kylington like the plague on
June 26th and 27th because “bad attitude” is worse than
bad skating and bad at hockey according to some scouting departments. Every
scouting room in the NHL discussing Kylington probably looked like that scene
out of Moneyball where the A’s scouts are throwing ridiculous factors when
evaluating players.

“Kylington skates well yeah, but the guy ate a tuna sandwich
for breakfast. Who the hell eats tuna for breakfast? Is that seriously the type
of person we want in our organization?”

“I heard his name is pronounced ‘Shillington’ but it’s not
spelled like that, that’s the kind of deception we don’t need around
here.” 

Whatever the reasoning, he was somehow still around at 60th
overall, and considering the Flames were able to trade for the pick, he was
going to fall into the third round; from Top 5 to outside the Top 60.

That’s ludicrous.

Regardless, the Flames were able to snag Kylington and the
feeling around the NHL seems to be more of jealousy than mockery, now. Hmm,
interesting. The mob mentality of hating the kid has worn off and now you
actually see him for the player he is: a damn good one. WELL TOO BAD.

Taking some time and examining Kylington, both the eye and
statistic tests confirm his status as an elite prospect, just like he was touted
to be last summer.

He skated circles around everyone at Flames development camp
(literally, the guy is really fast) and impressed both Flames brass and
onlookers with his poise and ability with the puck. While deficiencies on
defense are still most certainly present, it’s an extremely coachable area of
the game and if he’s willing to put in the effort, and coaching staffs in
Brandon or Stockton (wherever he eventually ends up) will undoubtedly guide him
to becoming a better all around hockey player. Player development has become a
major focus in the Flames organization in the past few years.

From a stats perspective, Kylington’s PCS% isn’t computable
in a valid manner because A) no one has done what he has at his age in the SHL
and thus has no cohorts and B) The sample sizes are too small in the other two
leagues. From the SHL perspective, we can take his uniqueness as a good thing.

His hard SHL numbers speak for themselves, though. No one
has done what he did at his age in the SHL from simply a GP standpoint, and
while he took a step back – in terms of where he played – last season, it’s
likely he was a victim of circumstance. He fell out of favour with a new coach
in Farjestad and then admittedly had some trouble adjusting to 2 new systems along
the way, in the SuperElit and Allsvenskan, not to mention all the different
systems put forth in international play with Team Sweden.

Kylington played on 6 different teams last year – including
international competition – and dealt with a nagging hamstring problem as well
as the pressures of being one of the highly hyped Swedish prospects in a long
time. I don’t want to make excuses for him, but that’s a lot for a 16/17 year
old to deal with. When I was 17, my biggest problem was deciding whether or not
it was worth the extra 40 cents to upgrade my fries to large at McDonalds. 

Peering at the numbers, he still scored at very above
average rates considering his age in all 3 leagues he played in, although due
to his moving around the sample sizes are small in all 3. He would score 7
points in 10 SuperElit (CHL equivalent) games, 7 points in 17 Allsvenskan (AHL
equivalent) and 5 points in 18 SHL games.

Coming into the 2015/16 season, with a brand new NHL contract
and all commitments in Sweden conveniently ixnayed, Kylington is probably
itching to get a move on with his fresh start in North America. He has 50 (!)
pro games in one of the Top 3 leagues in the world under his belt already, and
could probably go straight to Ryan Huska’s Stockton Heat of the AHL in the
fall.

The WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings – and their stacked lineup –
could also be an option, although I question Kylington’s willingness to go back
to junior hockey and the Flames’ willingness to let him out of their direct
sight. Nonetheless, Kelly McCrimmon is one of the premier junior hockey coaches
in the country and would only offer a ton of good to Kylington.

Whichever route Kylington chooses to go, his impressive
offensive abilities and elite skating ability will make him a fan favorite, and
with some work on his positioning and decision making inside his own blueline,
he’ll probably show to be not too far from NHL ready.

It’s not often you walk into a draft without a 1st
round pick, and the second player you take in that draft ends up being the 4th
best in a system unanimously agreed to be Top 10 in the NHL.

But that’s exactly what the Flames accomplished when they
drafted Oliver Kylington, 60th overall.  

  • Parallex

    Yeah, when I looked at my phone and saw “Calgary Flames Draft Defenseman Oliver Kylington” I did a little fist pump.

    I don’t agree with everything Treliving does but he killed it that weekend.

  • The Fall

    I still wouldn’t have picked Kylington at 15 had Barzal been there. But getting Hamilton makes it all better so I am very happy with how things work out.

    I agree, he could be the steal of the draft. Sure, the top three or four will probably be great players. But this kid, yeah, maybe him too.

    I also think it is interesting that the Flames went for Fat Ras first but then woke up and saw through whatever it was to trade up for the kid at 60. Kudos to the scouting staff and kudos to BT for listening and taking that “risk”.

    And kudos to you for getting it right from the outset Christian.

  • Parallex

    Would love to see what he can do in Stockton.
    In my opinion his skating is just to strong to go back to junior. In junior his skating will give him the chance to get out of mistakes without having to learn proper defense and positioning. Going to the AHL he is going to have to work and learn to be a better defensemen, and his skating will allow him the chance to learn at a higher level.

    Should be a great youth movement on the backend in Stockton.

    Wotherspoon, Culkin, Morrison, Kulak, Killington, and Kanzig all look like they have at least some NHL potential.

    • Burnward

      Agreed. Same argument also applies to Hunter Smith’s size and what he can do against pro men vs kids.

      That blue line is scary good. I can’t even remember a time the team had depth like this.

  • SmellOfVictory

    He’s pretty exciting, for sure. At minimum, he’s got the highest ceiling of any Flames prospect outside of Bennett, which is pretty exciting. And I’m glad to see he absolutely wrecked the 4 Nations tournament last month (4 points in 3 games).

    Although I am still wary of his defensive deficiencies, I’m very hopeful he can be the Flames’ best defensive prospect since the 80s.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Such great upside for this kid, and right now Calgary seems to be the perfect organization to develop him. The team has had great success in their two-way blueline ethos, and a prospect like him might be able to move into the lineup sooner than with some other teams.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Loved the draft and picking up Kylington at 60. In Development Camp he looked very poised and mature, which is not surprising considering his history and I’m hoping he goes to Stockton and gets a shot at making a case for the NHL this season.

    That may be hoping for too much but its happened to others and I wouldn’t put it past him. He just seems like a kid itching for an opportunity to prove everyone wrong, kinda like a few other Flames that have come in and stomped open the doors to the NHL.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    I was at home… checked my phone and Anderson was picked in the 2nd round. I was stoked! I wasn’t following the 2nd round of the draft, so I didn’t even know Kylington was still available. I had to leave and was driving to a town 1/2 hour away and turned on the Fan 960 right after they picked Kylington and my jaw literally dropped to the floor. I honestly couldn’t believe it. How Treliving managed to scoop Hamilton with no effect on the current roster and still pick up two tremendous D prospects was simply incredible.

  • BurningSensation

    Given we once blew a first round pick on Matt Pelech, getting a genuine freak talent like Kyllington at pick 60 is a 180 degree turnaround for the organization’s scouting.

    • Franko J

      I agree many first round picks for the Flames have been busts. Too many to mention.

      It took a change in philosophy from the ownership and management to realize that focusing on the draft and prospect development is more important to long term success on the ice rather than trading picks for short term gain.

      It started with Feaster and Treviling has continued with actually having a plan in place.

      While Treviling first draft as GM was less than stellar in most fans eyes, this past off season he garner’s an A+ for following through with the objective of making this team stronger and deeper.

      Hopefully the moves and draft picks he has made this past off season will translate to success on the ice.

      Whether it was last year drafting Hunter Smith or drafting this year with Kylington, he is slowly and steadily building something to look forward to watching in the years to come with the Flames. I for one haven’t been this enthusiastic and excited as a fan for some time.

  • The Fall

    I’ve heard people say that junior is a better option because he won’t get enough minute in the AHL. I have nothing to base this on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of the top pairing guys in Stockton by the end of the year. 50 games in a top professional league is a good head start for an AHL rookie.

    • Parallex

      I think I’d put him in Brandon.

      He’ll get a ton of ice-time and special team play there (more then in Stockton) and he’ll get to play against guys his own age for once. After a rough year last year I think I’d want to put him in the best position to succeed.

      • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

        I agree, plus then he will play 70+ games along with the brutal travel schedule and then be on a team poised to go very deep into the WHL playoffs.

        This will be the way to initiate him into Canadian Hockey.

        Rasmus Anderson also has experience playing in the Swedish leagues against men, but came to the OHL last year and then didn’t suffer the same issues as Kylington did. Anderson will also be back in junior, so I don’t see how it could do Kylington anything but good.

      • Parallex

        I wouldn’t be so sure about Kylington not getting enough icetime in Stockton. Ignoring Nakladal (who’s been playing pro in Europe for ages), Kylington is one of the most experienced pros among the defenders marked for the Heat. He’s played more games in the SHL (including playoffs) than Dustin Stevenson, Pat Sieloff, Brett Kulak, Ryan Culkin, and (of course) Kenney Morrison have in the AHL.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    Does anyone know the specific issues this kid apparently had that seen him drop drastically in the draft? Many GM’s passed on this kid for reason…but I never did here any specifics…..

  • Burnward

    Is Nick Leddy a good comparable for Kylington? A two-time Norris winner like Karlsson might be too optimistic, but Leddy would make sense. Would also further cement the endless Chicago Blackhawks parallels (lol)

    • Burnward

      Believe it or not, Karlsson is a much closer peer for Kylington than Leddy. Leddy was a marginally impressive high school player in his draft year, and went on to be a marginally decent College player (mind you, for only one year) before joining the Blackhawks. A much closer player to Leddy would be Hickey actually.

      Karlsson played seven games in Sweden’s top league in his draft year, to go with 38 in the U20 league (where he scored 37 points). Kylington played 18 games in Sweden’s top league. And keep in mind that last year was actually disappointing by his standards. Kylington was a PPG player in the U20 league as a 16 year old, and played 32 games in the top league (along with another 12 in the playoffs) that year.

      So what happened to him last year? Injuries.

      Do comparables always work out? Of course not.

    • piscera.infada

      Just based on a prima facie analysis of the two (basically the writings of scribes and pundits), Kylington has a higher ceiling, but is a much more volatile prospect (according to his detractors). I’m extremely excited for Andersson, and likewise Kylington. No matter what order they were drafted, the fact that we got both is awesome.

  • piscera.infada

    I think Oliver Kylington was definitely worth the gamble however I believe you are missing the main reasons he dropped in the draft. Prior to the draft there were several scouts in Sweden that said the only people that had him listed him going in the first round of the draft were teams that hadn’t seen him play in the previous season. The comment was that his hockey sense and compete level were extremely poor. Still worth it though in my opinion.