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
“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
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.
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
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.