With just two games in the World Juniors today, there were also just two Flames prospects in action. The prospective blue line looks to be a point of strength for Calgary these days, and Oliver Kylington and Adam Fox are big parts of that.
Kylington and Team Sweden were the first ones up, beating Team Switzerland 4-2. Then, it was Adam Fox and Team USA, who defeated Team Slovakia 5-2. Tyler Parsons had the day off as Joseph Woll got the start for the Americans.
Kylington is, in a word, active.
He played 20:12, the only Swedish skater to break the 20-minute mark, over 28 shifts. It’s easy to see why the Swedes entrust him with so much ice time – probably in part because he’s one of their 19-year-olds, but especially because his skating ability allows him to cover so much of the ice in so little time.
That was particularly on display during the first period, which was a frantic back-and-forth between the two teams that played directly into Kylington’s ability and enthusiasm. He rarely stays still, though his tendency to frequently make himself a part of the play is both a blessing and a curse.
When Heat head coach Ryan Huska says there’s a lot of youth in his game, it’s been especially apparent in this tournament. (Then again, you have to be young to play in this one, so…)
Kylington wasn’t on the ice for any of the goals against; both of Switzerland’s came on the penalty kill, which Kylington did not play on. On the flip side, he wasn’t on the ice for any of Sweden’s goals, either.
He did have a bit of a rough go on the powerplays to start. A beautiful toe drag led to Kylington losing the puck and having to rush back as the Swiss got a shorthanded shot away; on his next go, he negated his team’s powerplay by taking a penalty himself, when an ill-fated pass got lost by a teammate and in his rush back, he reached in and awkwardly ended up dragging an opponent down. (The Swiss did not score on the ensuing four-on-four, nor the bit of powerplay time they had left over.)
Kylington was credited with three shots overall, and had a couple of high danger scoring chances of his own: one in which he nearly split the Swiss coming in up towards the crease before he was disrupted, and another in which he received the puck from along the boards and was able to dance in, unchallenged, to the crease to get a close-range shot off. He also had his fair share of chances at setting his teammates up, particularly a nice pass to the slot on the powerplay when the Swedes were getting desperate to break the tie.
And when Kylington does lose the puck or get a little too enthusiastic, he’s always right back on the play.
Huska has said Kylington is getting better, and his game is starting to mature. He didn’t always keep things simple – there were a few moments of “trying to do literally everything his own damn self” – but you can tell that when Kylington is ready, he’s going to be good.
While Kylington can have a tendency to occasionally try to do everything himself, Fox tends to exhibit greater composure and willingness to make use of his teammates. He wasn’t as noticeable as Kylington was, playing a calmer, more focused game (in fairness, though, the Swiss are probably a more entertaining and interesting opponent than the Slovaks these days).
Fox played 18:22 over 18 shifts, and most of his ice time came in the third period, by which point the game was pretty much settled for the Americans. He did, however, finish second in American defencemen ice time. He was credited with two shots on net, and was on the ice for just one of the Americans’ goals, though he was a non-factor in it; he was not on the ice for any goals against.
Overall, Fox did jump up into the play when the opportunity presented itself, and had good vision. He wasn’t as active in creating chances, but he was more noticeable on the defensive side of the puck, including a really great pokecheck that completely disrupted what could have been a Slovakian breakaway had he misplayed it.
Fox did participate in the offensive zone cycle at times, and was always on the lookout for his teammates when he did. He’s definitely going to be one to watch – and when the U.S. starts facing more difficult opponents, we’ll probably really start seeing what he can do. It’ll be interesting to see how much the Americans decide to rely on him then, too.
- Pavel Karnaukhov and Team Russia vs. Adam Fox, Tyler Parsons and Team USA on Dec. 29 at 1:30 p.m.
- Oliver Kylington and Team Sweden vs. Team Finland on Dec. 29 at 3:30 p.m.
- Dillon Dube and Team Canada vs. Team Latvia on Dec. 29 at 6 p.m.