Of course I’m writing Oliver Kylington’s player evaluation.
As outspoken an advocate of Kylington’s as there is, nobody was more excited than me to see the Flames trade up to 60th overall to snag the Swede who was inexplicably tumbling down the draft board.
Kylington was slyly negotiated out of his commitments in Sweden and promptly made the trip to North America to start his draft+1 season in the AHL, a most unique circumstances for an 18-year-old. While the numbers don’t necessarily show it, he fared exceedingly well as one of the youngest players – if not the youngest – in that entire league.
No stranger to pro hockey having played in the SHL in his two previous seasons, Kylington suited up for 47 games with the Stockton Heat, dealing with a few injuries along the way.
Regarded for his offensive prowess, Kylington finished the season with five goals and 12 points, which might seem underwhelming – but expectations need to be in check for such a young player playing a premium position, and heavily focusing on how to actually defend. Kylington managed a respectable 1.4 shots per game, so he was getting his chances, though they were few and far between. I chalk up these relatively paltry results to age and experience, and I think we’re due to see exponential growth over the next few seasons in all of Kylington’s statistical categories.
Defence was the one area of concern with Kylington coming into the year. With an abundance of offensive talents, the player recognizing this area of weakness and actively working to improve it is positive. Erik Karlsson was his draft-year comparable for a reason.
Impact on team
As the season progressed, Kylington was trusted with more responsibility, but for the most part he was a sheltered, low impact player. What can you really expect out of an 18 year old?
Kylington ended up playing the fourth most games on a Stockton blueline ravaged by injuries and call-ups, and his role increased as the season progressed. By all accounts, so did his ability. “After Christmas I think I’ve been playing a better game on the defensive part,” Kylington said, recounting his season to calgaryflames.com. “I think it’s been a pretty good year. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Though he wasn’t the go-to workhorse for Stockon, his season draws striking similarities to that of Hampus Lindholm’s draft+1 year. The current Duck wunderkind also spent his 18-year-old season in the AHL, and finished that season with one goal and 11 points in 44 games played. Those are crazy similar numbers.
Lindholm didn’t get to make his NHL debut with the Ducks that season, like Kylington did with the Flames, but he became a full-time NHLer the year after. Lindholm too was regarded as an offensive defenceman – though not to the extent of Kylington – and plays a similarly silky smooth style of ice hockey. So while the numbers Kylington posted this year might come off as a disappointment at first glance, they line up very nicely with a pretty successful predecessor.
If the Flames end up developing themselves a Hampus Lindholm out of Kylington, the blueline goes from fantastic to simply not fair.
While it would be nice to pencil in Kylington into the starting six next season, I think it’s realistic to expect him return to Stockton and try to make his Impact on Team section a little bigger. Fact is, this is still an extremely raw player, with an extraordinary skill set, that still needs time to be moulded into a player that can find success at the NHL level.