was announced Oct. 29 that the Brandon Wheat Kings shipped Latvian
import Rihards Bukarts to the Portland Winterhawks, leaving them with one
open spot for an import player.
guess who comes to mind?
just four games under his belt of pro hockey, the Flames 2015 second-round pick,
Oliver Kylington, is a name that should be considered for that open import spot
in Brandon, especially given his early struggles in Stockton. Let’s explore why
the 18-year-old Swede should be sent
to the WHL in light of the news.
unfortunate, but some players just aren’t ready for the professional level at
18. I know, shocking, right?
we know that seems to be the case with Oliver Kylington. He’s not ready for
professional hockey yet. No, that doesn’t mean his stock has dropped
organizationally. He just needs to go through the regular development of most
18 year olds.
you watch Kylington play in Stockton, immediately his skating comes to mind. It’s
been mentioned all over the internet, in print, and vocally: Kylington’s a
great skater. The best in his draft class in fact. However, his legs have only
taken him so far with the Heat before some concerns have crept up.
battles and net-front battles have not been kind to Kylington so far. The vast
gulf in strength between him and his opponents is as clear as air. It
highlights the primary attribute Kylington is going to have to improve in order
to compete at this level.
a result, Kylington spends a great deal of time defending in his own zone, battling
for pucks that he tends to lose and then being unable clear the zone when he
finally does retrieve the puck. Net-front battles are even worse yet. He simply
doesn’t have the strength to move anyone from in front of Jon Gillies. To make
matters worse, because he’s on the bottom pairing alongside Patrick Sieloff,
they tend to get matched against some of the bigger, meaner, grinder-types.
This isn’t an issue for Sieloff, but it’s noticeable for Kylington.
unable to win puck battles is one thing, but if he does win a puck battle he
seems to struggle with his decision making. He doesn’t seem to know what to do
with it. By default he wants to use his skating ability to move the puck out of
the zone. While that’s okay sometimes, it doesn’t cut it all of the time. That’s
when he’s got to make the smart pass to exit the zone, which doesn’t happen as
often as it should. Often he’ll make bad reads by choosing the wrong support
option, which results in a turnover.
that said, he has settled down somewhat in rushing the puck and has become more
cognisant of turning the puck over in the neutral zone so he isn’t caught up
ice. Perhaps Ryan Huska and Todd Gill asked him not to rush the puck as much,
to let a forward do it. However, from time to time, his instinct will still
kick in and he’ll do what got him drafted – use his legs to move the puck out
of his zone, even if it’s not the best option.
needs to be an adjustment period, a sweet spot if you will; a period where he
can continue to use his strengths liberally while at the same time learning to
become a complete player. That place is Brandon, Manitoba.
WHEATIES ARE A FIT
Wheat Kings are an early favourite to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, meaning they’re
going to be a power house. Just 14 games into the young WHL season they’ve
shown that those expectations weren’t unfounded.
Kylington to join a tight-knit team like the Wheat Kings, with their
established group of overagers, young stars in the making (Ivan Provorov, Jace
Hawryluk, and John Quenneville) and one of the most revered junior coaches in
the game today (Kelly McCrimmon) would be important in two ways. First, as a
blooming star himself, Brandon likely wouldn’t miss a beat adding Kylington to
the lineup alongside their existing players. Secondly, Kylington would be
indirectly challenged to keep up to pace in a lineup like Brandon’s. This would
not only help his personal development, but his work ethic as well, which has
been a point of criticism amongst those who have watched Kylington.
Kings head coach Kelly McCrimmon wasn’t named an assistant coach for Team Canada in this
year’s World Junior Tournament for nothing. The respect garnered over the years
has come from his ability to mentor young players through respect rather than
rule, which speaks to McCrimmon’s longevity in the WHL. His patience and
respect for young players is what would make him a wonderful coach for
Kylington. It’s known that Kylington can have differences of opinion with coaches,
so if McCrimmon can establish mutual trust, that will go a long way in his
sharpens iron and having Kylington in the same lineup (or even on the same
pairing) as the Flyers’ first-rounder Ivan Provorov is an incredibly enticing
thought if you’re Brad Treliving. Right now, Kylington’s blue line partner is Sieloff.
Not to take anything away from ol’ Pat, but simply watching Provorov dance his
way around the ice should be enough to push Kylington that extra mile.
there may be a chance they won’t be paired together after all. There are five
regular left-shooting defensemen and just one right-shooter. Neither Provorov
nor Kylington are accustomed to playing on their off-side. Therefore, it may be
too much to force an on-ice relationship between the two defensemen. The more
likely scenario would be Kylington on the second pairing with first unit power
play duties. Would it be worth it to send him down then? I’ll let you decide.
was a mistake to put Kylington in the AHL to begin with. Yes, it’s only four
games into the season, but he looks lost out there except for occasional spurts
of creativity in the offensive zone. Outside of his occasional moments, Kylington
looks like he’s caught off guard by the physicality and nastiness of the AHL –
and that’s a huge issue early in the season. Once the puck finds its way into
his corner, more often than not he loses that puck battle, which is why he
spends most of his time in his own zone.
a player can overcome what they lack physically by using their innate skills in
the skating, stick handling and hockey smarts departments (e.g., Gaudreau).
Unfortunately, Kylington just isn’t there yet and it’s not worth the damage to
his body or development to keep him with the Heat.
right thing to do would be to mulligan and see if McCrimmon would interested in
filling that import spot with one of the most highly touted prospects in the
Flames system. There’s absolutely no need to rush him. Stockton’s blue line
(with the addition of Nakladal yesterday) is currently sitting at nine
defenders. I can guarantee you they won’t miss Kylington, not with the players
they already have that can replace him on defense.
due time, Kylington will become a hell of a player in professional hockey, but
his time isn’t now.