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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects: #5 Oliver Kylington

Coming into the 2015 draft, the Flames had one very pressing need: defence. Both the big team and the farm were hurting on the blueline, with depth near non-existent as evidenced with their Kris Russell-Dennis Wideman first pairing in the playoffs that year.

Brad Treliving went out and aggressively addressed that, adding Dougie Hamilton via trade, Rasmus Andersson with their first pick of the second round, and then trading up to snag fellow Swede Oliver Kylington at 60. My fondness for Kylington has been well-documented, with my bullish analysis of the mustang defender leading people to literally tag me in notifications about Kylington on Twitter and link me to random articles about him.

While Kylington may not be quite the can’t-miss, Erik Karlsson-lite I make him out to be, reality is he’s still one of the Flames’ better prospects, and with two years of AHL experience under his belt already at just 20 years old, he’s preparing himself to either push for an NHL spot with the Flames, or become one of their most marketable assets. He stays at #5 in our prospects rankings.

A brief history

Oliver Kylington was widely regarded as the best D prospect in the 2015 NHL Draft, and was a surefire top five pick coming into that year. However, his stock fell steadily throughout that season – rightfully or not – as the microscope on him intensified. His once-lauded penchant for high risk/high reward plays was now a source of liability, and the room for improvement in his own zone was now a glaring hole. Kylington was all tools and no toolbox. That, however, doesn’t mean one can’t be fashioned for him, of course. A teenager of immense talent in need of significant grooming and development shouldn’t be such a terrifying prospect given the nature of the NHL draft, yet for whatever reason, was.

Your loss, NHL.

Kylington already had 50 SHL games and 17 Allsvenskan ones when he pulled the Flames sweater over his head, and jumped straight into the AHL from there. His first season was one of adjustments and growth, slowly but surely earning the trust of head coach Ryan Huska in Adirondack, playing 47 games and earning 12 points, with a cup of coffee in the NHL to finish the season. He was also snubbed off Sweden’s World Junior team (along with Rasmus Andersson) for reasons unbeknownst to man.

With a year of North American pro hockey under his belt, Kylington needed a significant step forward in year two, and made just that. He became one of the Heat’s workhorses, logging heavy minutes night in and night out and not looking one bit out of place. He bumped his point totals to 27 in 60 games (0.45 PPG as opposed to 0.25 in year one), and played a lead role for Sweden in the World Junior Championships.

His biggest strides came in his own zone however, as Stockton’s coaching staff slowly brought the young Swede’s game along, simplifying decision making behind his blueline in particular. The question with Oliver Kylington has never been can he create plays and move the puck, it’s can he stop plays and disrupt the puck.

Quotables

Calgary Flames development coach Ray Edwards noted one big improvement Kylington needs to make (that they’re confident he’ll be able to) is eliminating big mistakes from his game.

The thing with Oliver, and we’ve talked to him about this in his exit meetings, we talked about it with him when we left at development camp, was he has the ability to make a lot of plays. The thing he has to eliminate from his game, is he has to eliminate the big gaffe. He has the confidence to make plays, the problem with Oliver is he wants to make every play. There’s sometimes he just has to live to fight another day and make a simple play. But he has the confidence and the want to make really difficult plays. And he can make them, but there’s times when you have to manage the game, manage the situation and live to fight another day.

Stockton Heat head coach Ryan Huska pointed out how young Kylington is and how much he’s improved since he arrived in the AHL as an 18-year-old.

There have been significant changes in Oliver’s game in regards to how he plays with and without the puck, how he is offensively, how he is defensively. He’s a much more complete player than what he was when he first came here. Now is the time where, whether or not he’s 20 or 30, he has to find the urgency to take the next step now where he has to be a more dominant guy each and every night that he’s on the ice in regards to what he’s doing with the puck and the decisions that he’s making.

What comes next?

The next steps for Kylington are essentially detailed in the quotes above. He needs to iron out those final eyesore wrinkles from his game in the form of the “big mistakes”, as Edwards described them. The outlet pass up the middle to the other team, the D-to-D pass that springs an opposing breakaway, the mystifying giveaways created from an unwillingness to embrace the simple play need to dissipate. It’s clear everyone around Kylington has been hammering home the need to simplify his game and this season needs to be Kylington’s freest of those mistakes yet. Killing them (with fire, heh) from his repertoire alone would likely move him to the top of the list for call-up, given the NHL’s razor thin margin of error and the magnitude a Kyli-error could have on the Flames if he’s still prone to regular brain farts.

Kylington also needs to take the step from one of the most dominant blueliners on the Heat to one of the most dominant blueliners in the AHL. Prospect progression is never linear, but it does follow that after two full American League seasons, a high-end prospect should be well enough equipped to dominate the league and serve notice to his NHL bosses that he’s not just knocking on the door for a call-up, but outright dismantling it. It’s time for Kylington to prove he’s still worthy of the bluechip tag he’s carried with him most of his hockey playing life.

With the arrival of new top blueline talent like Adam Fox and Juuso Valimaki, Oliver Kylington’s 2017-18 season will very much decide whether he stays as a top five Flames prospect, or falls behind the young bucks hot on his tail. If the Flames have any injuries on the blueline, Kylington will likely have to battle the likes of Tyler Wotherspoon and Rasmus Andersson for the call-up, and it’s all up to him to distinguish himself. He’s quickly reaching a point where he can no longer ride pedigree, and will have to force his way into the NHL on a Flames team stacked to gills on defense. If not, he risks becoming trade fodder for a blossoming team looking to add to its NHL roster, or worse yet, fade off into the abyss of prospect has-beens.

My love for Kylington might be unconditional, but Flames managements’ certainly won’t be.

Previously

#20 – Ryan Lomberg #19 – Adam Ollas Mattsson
#18 – Daniel Pribyl #17 – Eetu Tuulola
#16 – Adam Ruzicka #15 – Emile Poirier
#14 – David Rittich #13 – Hunter Shinkaruk
#12 – Matthew Phillips #11 – Jon Gillies
#10 – Morgan Klimchuk #9 – Andrew Mangiapane
#8 – Dillon Dube #7 – Spencer Foo
#6 – Mark Jankowski

  • freethe flames

    Kylington remains as controversial as Janko in my mind; not because of where he was drafted but as to whether are not he will be an impact NHLer. His history of defensive errors means he is suspect to many Flames fans and I wonder if he might be the guy who gets traded and then we have regrets about as he suddenly matures. With two years in and 3 more years left on his contract I wonder just what he will be. It’s a long shot for him to make the team this year and I wonder how he will be deployed with the Heat?

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I get the controversy, but honestly he is not the same as a Janko pick. He wasn’t a reach where he was drafted. Every GM knew he was going to take time. At 20 years old he’s on par with Brodie’s progression to the NHL. Maybe a little ahead. Defense is easier to learn than the skating and offensive instincts he displays already. He won’t be traded unless the return is outstanding; you don’t do that with top prospects.

      • freethe flames

        Is that not what I said? There is controversy over Rasmus Andersson as well because of his conditioning but that by all accounts has come around. I still think he has upside but as frequently said on this site: draft the best player available (I would say we did when we drafted him) and trade/sign for team needs. Does this organization need someone who can play top 9 RW? In my opinion the answer seems to be yes.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          You mention that he might be the guy to get traded. Development is the other side of drafting, not trades. Why would you trade a guy that is nowhere near his prime? Hickey was another story. Still young but his development is headed in the wrong direction. If you trade him for team needs, that could very well a short-term fix that doesn’t work.

          • Andy61038

            Because they have fox Anderson kylington valamaki and Kulak. With Brodie And Hamilton staying long term just not allot of room. Trade assets from an area of strength to weakness.

    • Scary Gary

      Seriously?! Kylington was projected as a first round pick and was a steal in the second. Once he get’s the defensive side smoothed out he’s going to push for an HNL job; he’s only 20 after all. I don’t see the controversy, let your prospect develop playing big minutes in the AHL.

      • Trevy

        Agreed, seen him play in Penticton last year and the man has jets to burn. He just needs to make smarter decisions as he tries to do too much. Loves to carry the puck when sometimes a quick outlet pass is a better choice. Nonetheless, these are tangibles that can be coached. Like everyone is saying he’s only 20 and has finally found some stability. He just now needs some seasoning to pull it all together

    • Flames8

      I definitely wouldn’t say his window is closing. He’s only 20? He could still be playing junior. Everyone tends to forget this because he has so much pro experience. These last two years he has been a boy among men and has held his own and even excelled. Most times you don’t write off a prospect until he hits that 24-25 range. This kid is 20. Window is still wide open

      • Sound_Defence

        There are only so many spots available on the backend. With the skill the team has in D prospects and their history of acquiring seasoned Dmen, ‘Shillington has is work cut out for him. If he doesn’t step it up and soon, he will be overlooked and passed by Val and Fox not to mention Anderson. Thus why I say his window is closing with this team,he could end up being the odd man out and packaged up and traded. Disagree and unlike this all you want, balls in his court.

        • Flames fan since 83

          The article above explains that he has progressed season over season. The window appears to be opening each year. (not closing)
          I’m happy to wait another 2 – 3 years for Oliver if he keeps progressing. He’ll be only 23 in 3 years time. With his skating ability, he projects to be able to play into his early 30’s. That would be 10 years in his prime!
          I hope were patient.

        • wot96

          This is manifestly incorrect. Ari beat me to it but his ELC starts this year so he has a minimum of two years to go. Further, if this kid develops enough defensively and eliminates the larger mistakes, how does he not push for a 6 d role, which would give a dangerous offensive element to a third pairing – with Stone? Doesn’t that make Kulak a great #7? And doesn’t that give the team serious options when the Brodie contract is coming due and they can’t re-sign Brodes under the cap? Not sure why the “history” of signing aging D-men is even relevant with the talent in the pipeline.

    • HOCKEY83

      Window is closing? Ridiculous. It takes most D until they’re 24 to 26 years old to properly mature. It’s not as though he was drafted as a phenom. Just a regular defensive draft pick that’s going to take time to develop.

  • buts

    Well written article. Who would close the window on a 20 year old D man the skate like the wind. Patience is needed as playing D is the 2nd hardest position next to goaltending. If OK was 23-24 and still making big gaffes then its time to move on. Lets stay patient…he could be the next Karlson.

  • Walt Whitman

    I have faith that he will come around. After all, he is only 20 years of age and whilst we may have placed a frame of high expectations upon him he, like most NHL Defensemen, would need a few more laps around our Sun in order to fill out that frame. Patience, as with all things in nature, is key here. This may be the year in which he breaks into a new season of growth.

    WW

  • Cam Notlaw

    Kylington, Fox, Andersson and Valimaki. It would be great if one or two become top pairing D. All have the potential for top 4. I think Kylington, of the 4, has the best chance to push for the 6th spot this yearbecause he is a LD and Andersson is a RD.

  • Thunder1

    Cali maki and Fox make Kylington trade bait. I’m not saying he’s not good, he could be great. But Tre already said the Flames are in go for it mode in the next three years. He’s not ready to play top four in that time frame, nor do the Flames need him to do so. However, they do need a top six winger.

    • cjc

      The problem is that Kylington has yet to do anything beyond what is expected of a 2nd round pick. If he comes out and has a dominant AHL season, then we’re talking. But if we’re talking trade for a top 6 RW right now, it is going to take more than Kylington.

  • Newbietwo

    It’s not a dead end road for kylington as a flame nor is it as pressing as one makes it seem.. one forget that’s Witherspoon as an example is 23 heading to 24 and has yet to fully enter the NHL but remains flames property..

    The flames do not rush defensive prospects and they certainly will not be rushing this one either..

    Kylington and Anderson will be flames NHLers not this season but the one following..

    The trade risk are to those players these two prospects will replace as they will be third pair team mates.. albeit it Kulak will remain it will be injury call ups those two prospects will come up for..

    We have Valimaki, Kylington as LD future flames NHLers and we have Fox and Anderson as RD future NHLers.. four solid prospects..

    In terms of progression loss on D I see the following timeline

    Giordano- 4 years from now or 2022 he will be 38.. he might stay as a flame but regress to bottom pairing and penalty kill

    Stone: has 3 years on his contract and will be traded after year 2 that opens a spot 2019 we will get a 2nd and 4th rounder for him

    Wotherspoon will be our 7D for a few seasons forsure

    Kulak: Will be 3rd pairing LD this season and for 2019 and either himself or Wotherspoon stays after that

    Fox: Has two more years at college and one year of AHL.. he can play but needs to bulk up so worst case he’s got 3 years but at least two before we sweat it.

    Anderson: Will reach NHL 2019.. he needs to add size and be dominant in AHL he will be 23 then

    Kylington: Will make NHL 2019 and will be 23

    Valimaki: will make NHL 2019/2020 and will be 22 then

    Harmonic: He is 28 now and likely will be gone 3 to 4 years from now traded for a first rounder and a 2nd.. that’s not to say he might not be here 5 years from now though

    So you have 2021

    Brodie/Hamilton
    Valimaki/Anderson
    Kylington/Fox

    There a long jam forsure but it’s not really one to figure out for two more seasons

    • everton fc

      I don’t see Brodie as a 1/2 defender. And I think Kulak will surprise us all, very soon.

      I can see Gio playing out his term here – or heading home to Toronto, at some point. Fox may never play here, but if he does, I don’t see him as a 5/6 defender. And I see Kulak in the mix, like Brodie, as an unsung prospect who became more than just another “prospect”.

      Lots of defenders of this calibre – these young prospects… Make others, prospects or seasoned pros – expendable as trade bait, down the road. Depth on defence always makes sense.

      • oilcanboyd

        What makes you think Fox will never play here? He is as sure a thing to make the NHL…already showing elite talent. Flames have been working with Fox since he was drfafted.

        • Cup hope

          The biggest risk with Fox is that he stays 4 years at Harvard and then has the freedom to go anywhere. Probably not Calgary as it will already have defense depth.

          • JMK

            Can’t see Fox staying in college for 4 years. Kid is too good. And this argument that someone won’t sign with Calgary because they already have depth in that position is irrelevant to me. If the kid isn’t willing to beat that depth and win his place, then he can go wherever he likes. I highly doubt that is the case with Fox seems like a competitive guy.

      • BringtheFire 2.0

        @Everton

        With respect, I think he proved he is a 1/2 defender if he plays with another 1/2 defender.

        Not to mention his contract is an absolute bargain.

    • HOCKEY83

      I don’t think you’re giving Stone enough credit to resign and move up the roster when need be. I can see Hamonic leaving before Stone. Can also see Valimaki making it ahead of eanyone else in the system next season. Fox will unfortunately be able to become UFA and go wherever he pleases when the time comes so hopefully the Flames will be able to retain him. Wherever he goes he will play NHL right out of college.

  • Christian Roatis

    Not sure if the “window is closing” talk was inferred from my writing but that’s not what I meant. Kylington needs another big step this year to retain his bluechip status. He’s still miles away from bust territory.

  • Cheeky

    Hey writers, any chance of an article on Kylington vs Ras – their style and who likely to make higher NHL impact. Never really seen much of either play except on youtube. Cheers!

  • OKG

    Janko / Parsons / Kylington, our top three prospects.

    Kylington’s gaffes are overstated. His floor at this point is a Sami Vatenen / Tyson Barrie type and his ceiling is still sky-high.

  • freethe flames

    I see prospects in a different light than many; the first list of prospects are those who have a good chance of making the NHL team this year; those who are in the AHL and need to be ready to be recalled and should be pushing during camp, those who are high end prospects but are a few years away because of age/where they are playing and then those are guys we hope turn out. Of the remaining 4 yet to be ranked only one of them fits the almost NHL ready and that is Andersson the other 3 may indeed have a higher ceiling than Andersson but all 3 of them are at least 3 years away. Fox won’t be at camp NCAA rules, Parsons as good as he is will need time to develop, and Valimaki will be sent back to the CHL. Because of his age and the fact that Kylington still 3 years left on his entry level contract and now has 2 AHL seasons and a Swedish men’s season under his belt I think he is close but I suspect the Flames trust both Kulak and Spoon more. Looking forward to camp it should be fun.

    As far as guys from the list I see Janko as the only forward really ready andd then I see Foo/Klimchuk/Mangiapane/Shinkaruk/Poirier all in the same boat ready to push the pile and had better be ready when recalled.

    • everton fc

      Flames should certainly trust Kulak more than Kylington, and Andersson. And I’d agree, Wotherspoon may be less a risk in Calgary, than Kylington, as I type. Down the road… Maybe Kylington is here long term, next season. I hope so. But I agree, he’ll need to be more on teh dominant side in the AHL, versus “above average, with the odd gaffe”.

      As for forwards, I think Jankowski is ready. I think Hathaway is ready. I think Klimchuk’s and Lomberg’s “games” are better suited for immediate 4th line or fill-in duty, than Shinkaruk, or (in order) Poirier/Mangiapane/Foo…

      • freethe flames

        I did not mention Hathaway as I don’t think was on the list of top 20 however you are right that he is guy who could make the jump as 4th liner. I also agree that Lomberg fits the traditional 4th line mode. My hope is that after this year the Flames will be in a better position to play 4 lines that are different from that traditional 4th line but so much depends on the development and evolution of Bennetts/Janko/Lazar at center for that to happen. The other obstacle is the devotion given to NHL vets with big contracts but underachieve;I’m hoping either Brouwer and Stajan play much better than last year or that GG rewards merit and not reputation. We sat a $5m defender last because he was under performing for a stretch and I hope that if a kid earns the job over Brouwer and even Stajan that GG will do the same.

  • Baalzamon

    I’m always a sucker for a toolsy defenseman, and Kylington is about as toolsy as they get (except for Hamilton, who has the size which is the only thing Kylington lacks).

    I do get why people think he might be traded, though. If Kulak surprises in the NHL and Valimaki has a banner year in the WHL, I could see Kylington being traded for someone like Kasperi Kapanen. I fully expect Kylington to end up as the better player, but Kapanen may well be the better organizational fit.

    But that’s what makes prospects so fascinating. Personally I think Kylington will be an impact player in the NHL. Easily the highest ceiling in the system, at least among skaters. It’s that floor that worries people, though.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    No need to rush to any conclusions with this youngster. It was a stroke of genius by BT to get two high end defenders in the same draft, both in the 2nd round, both of which were team controlled for many years – it gives more time for decision making and allows them to fully ripen on the vine. Valimaki signing when he did is cost-controlled for an extra year as well. D take time. Tre understands this.

  • The Doctor

    Just a quibble, but I don’t see Kylington as ahead of Jankowski in terms of prospect development or potential. Janko was a better overall player for the Heat last year, and more dominant. I also think Janko has a bigger upside. Both very good prospects though.

  • Stockton's Finest

    Good article Christian. As someone who watched Oliver last year, you hit the nail on the head when you talk about simplifying his game. More often than not Kylington elected to make the extra, ill advised, pass instead of taking the open shot. His decision making is about a second slow which led to turnovers. But when he turned on the jets, he could not be caught. He has huge upside but I think sometimes is in his own head too much. Make the safe pass or shoot the puck when open. Get into shot lanes on the back end. I saw progress between seasons, now time to take the next step. Does he has what it takes to get to Calgary? Of course he does. Will be a top pairing? Probably not. Top 4? I see that. But he needs to hone his game.

      • Stockton's Finest

        Anderson is a little more defensive minded but not as flashy. He is solid and steady. Dependable. When you watch Kylington he will “wow” you one minute and make you shake your head the second minute.

        I really like Jankowski’s game. I think Mangiapane and Klimchuk are good. Austin Carroll may surprise some with another year. Poirier needs another year in Stockton (on some crappy ice) to get his game, and confidence, back to where it needs to be. I am looking for a big year out of Pribyl. And hopefully Augaard (?) sticks with the Heat as he brought some energy to the team the last half of the year.

          • Stockton's Finest

            I am glad I found this forum. I will be checking in all year. So if there is any player you want a first hand opinion about, call me out and I will respond.

            Like the great WW, I have been critical of Huska at times in the past. So he needs to show me a little more before I am totally sold.

            I caught about 10 games in 2015. I was season ticket holder last year and only misses 2 games. I renewed my tickets and will miss less than 5 home games this year but maybe throw in a road trip to SJ, Bakersfield, or even Ontario. And, of course, a trip to the big club for my one game call up!

        • Stockton's Finest

          @Carl…Lomberg is Mrs. Finest’s favorite player. He definitely brings it every night. Would not surprise me one bit if he wears an “A” this year. Huska likes captains who are gritty, work hard, speaks up, and leads by example. Lomberg checks all of those boxes. That is one reason he was voted Fan Favorite last year.

    • The Doctor

      Funny that reminds me of some of the criticism that was directed at PK Subban in his early years, trying to do too much with the puck, pushing the offensive play too much, not eating it when he should, etc.

  • Heat2017

    Can anybody answer these five questions for me ?
    1- which defenseman averaged the most minutes a game in Stockton?
    2- according to the coaches in Stockton ,which defenseman shut down the opponents top line night in and night out?
    3- who was in the top 3 for plus/minus in the AHL?
    4- what defensman was named defensman of the year for Stockton?
    5- how many of you have witnessed a live game in Stockton?

    Tell me how after answering these questions you don’t have him in the top ten?

    • Stockton's Finest

      For #1 – that’s hard because Andersson spent the last month with Calgary.
      #2- Wotherspoon, Kayle Doetzel, Andersson, and Kostka all spent time on the top line.
      #3- the top +/- defenseman for the Heat was Wotherspoon with a +30. Kylington finished with a +3. Andersson was +14.
      #4- I believe Andersson took home defensive player for the Heat.
      #5- I have Heat season tickets and went to about 10 the previous season.

      I am answering these questio 2nd straight from the April 15th Heat stat sheet – the last regular season game against Tucson.

  • Just.Visiting

    He was someone I’d hoped the Flames would have taken with their first round pick before the Dougie heist from Boston. I was shocked that the Flames picked him up where we did the next day and that Ras was added as an intervening pick.

    In the few times that I’ve seen him play, I’ve seen the offensive flashes. I However, he also looked small and didn’t appear to be doing a good job in possession battles and being able to play the man. Perhaps a strengthening thing that he worked on a lot over the summer? The judgment errors hopefully lessen over time with experience and coaching.

    The challenge with Kylington is to remember that he has played two years in the AHL that his peers have spent in junior. This has allowed him to adapt to the pro game by playing against men and having pro coaching. The corresponding downside is that the junior experience would have provided him with a potential opportunity to dominate, albeit perhaps with the addition of bad habits.

    Looking forward to seeing what he does in camp this year. Too early to talk about giving up on him.

    An interesting plan B if it were apparent that he wasn’t going to develop sufficiently defensively would be to move him to a forward position.