FlamesNation Top 20 Prospects 2018: #5 Oliver Kylington

For every step forward Oliver Kylington’s development has taken since being drafted 60th overall in 2015 draft, his public perception seems to have taken one backwards.

That’s not to say Kylington, who retains his fifth overall slot in FlamesNations’ Top 20 prospect rankings for the third consecutive year, is disliked or perceived poorly by fans and critics alike, but rather that he’s underrated in most circles. Juuso Valimaki and Rasmus Andersson dominate the discussion around who should push for a spot on the big team come September and who in the system could turn into impact players – as they should – but fact is, Kylington belongs in that discussion, too.

Each of his three AHL seasons have seen continued improvement in areas not limited to offence, his most advertised skill. The biggest knock on Kylington, a once projected top five draft pick, was his defence. Specifically, his hockey sense in the defensive zone. All accounts are that he’s improved his defence to the point of knocking on the NHL door, and his elite level skating and offensive instincts remain. So, why aren’t we talking about Oliver Kylington?

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How did we get here?

As mentioned above, 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 and his fall from grace has since been well documented.

Kylington already had 67 professional games under his belt when he pulled the Flames sweater over his head, and jumped straight to the AHL. His first season was one of adjustments and growth, playing 47 games and earning 12 points, with a cup of coffee in the NHL to finish the season. His sophomore year came with increased expectations, and Kylington met them, bumping 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.

He needed an even bigger step in year three, and he did just that solidifying himself on the second pairing in Stockton, further increasing his point totals to 35 points in 62 games (0.56 PPG). For those keeping score at home, his goals have linearly increased, too: five goals in year one, six in year two and seven this past year. 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 blue line in particular. The question with Kylington has never been can he create plays and move the puck, it’s can he stop plays and disrupt the puck.

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At season’s end, as a U21 defenceman, he’d already amassed 169 AHL games.

Stats, numbers, and everything therein

Games Played Goals Assists Points
62 7 28 35

As previously mentioned, Kylington set AHL career highs in goals and point outputs for the third consecutive year, and was Stockton’s second highest scoring blueliner behind Andersson in points per game.

For a deeper dive into Kylington’s numbers, revisit Christian Tiberi’s writeup on him here.

Those in the know

The newly minted head coach of the Stockton Heat, Cail MacLean, has had plenty of firsthand experience witnessing Kylington’s development as an assistant coach in Stockton last season, and was complimentary in his assessment of the young Swede.

I think [his defensive play] came along very nicely last year. I think he did a really good job of bringing defensive game to the opponent, bringing nice tight gaps and utilizing his biggest strength, which is his skating… Now he’s becoming a mature pro, he’s no longer a young pro – you can say that maybe on paper but the bottom line is he’s been around now – and I think that one real positive for Oliver is he can start to operate in an environment where he’s not playing up above his head in terms of maturity and age and everything, and I think you’ll see the result in that with Oliver is he can relax a little bit and let his game come to him rather than try to force it. He’s got great passing ability. He’s a very good shooter. Obviously his skating is exceptional. I really feel like Oliver is poised to make big strides this year because I think it’s time to fulfill that role of being one of the mature players, which I’m sure he’s excited for.

Our very own Stockton Heat correspondent, Stockton’s Finest, has also witnessed Kylington’s development up close the past two years and was, well, less complimentary in his analysis.

I have provided some past posts regarding Kylington that have not been kind. Since first watching him in 2015-16 season, it appears he has not improved, or has not improved as much as someone who has three full years of experience. His offensive numbers may look impressive (7-28-35), but he was a minus-12. His defensive play still needs to be refined.

It should also be noted that Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked Kylington as the Flames’ number one prospect, and was exceedingly complimentary in his analysis of him.

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On the horizon

It would be unfair to characterize any player’s 21-year-old season as “make or break”, but in Kylington’s case, he’s approaching that point. In his fourth full season in the AHL, the expectation is that Kylington will not only assume the role of Stockton’s best defenceman with Andersson’s presumed departure, but also contend for the title of the AHL’s best defenceman. Truly elite prospects tend to dominate the minor pro levels at this age, and Kylington will need to do so to retain his top prospect designation.

Having said all that, I remain confident Kylington can continue to trend upwards and fill the requirements of expectations again this season, if only because that’s all he’s ever done in his young career. Opportunity remains scarce on the Flames’ NHL roster, but I’d expect he makes a big impression in training camp, and follows it up with his finest AHL campaign to date.

And hopefully, regains some of the respect he’s seemed to have lost over the past three years.

#20 – Martin Pospisil #19 – Demetrios Koumontzis
#18 – Emilio Pettersen #17 – Filip Sveningsson
#16 – Milos Roman #15 – Dmitry Zavgorodniy
#14 – D’Artagnan Joly #13 – Adam Ruzicka
#12 – Linus Lindstrom #11 – Glenn Gawdin
#10 – Morgan Klimchuk #9 – Jon Gillies
#8 – Tyler Parsons #7 – Matthew Phillips
#6 – Spencer Foo


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  • Baalzamon

    but rather that he’s underrated in most circles.

    Accurate. If you asked 100 people if Timothy Liljegren is a better prospect than Oliver Kylington, guaranteed 99 of them would say either yes or “Oliver Who?” Never mind that everything Liljegren has done every year of his career is merely what Kylington did at the same age in the same league two years earlier.

    They should be considered equivalent prospects. They aren’t.

    • ZZMiddle

      Im with SF on this one. Ive have seen him live a number of times, was very disappointed. Very poor in his own end. He still has time to figure it out, but as a defenceman, he was very much overrated from the get-go.

  • Just.Visiting

    I would have preferred that the Flames had sent him to the WHL to allow him to transition to NA in an environment in which he may have been able to dominate and to develop a taste for that.

    From the limited amount I’d seen, size and strength are a residual question.

    At this stage, I don’t think we understand if he projects out as more of a Brodie from a couple of years ago or a Kulak. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, of course, just that they are much more common in organizations.

    This will be a key year in his development.

    If we’re having a similar discussion next year, perhaps there should be a discussion about a shift in position to the forward ranks.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    As far as prospects left in this count-down that have the ability to make the greatest impact & chance of having star quality, Oliver leads the pack. It’s the skating ability that set him apart. Rasmus may be have the better chance at making the team in the near term and could be a solid top 4 d in the league. Valimaki projects as a solid top 4 D, but Oliver “could” be that top pairing guy that just takes off to a higher level.

    Dube has a more solid chance of being an NHL regular but his ceiling isn’t as high and seems like a solid bet 3rd liner. Mangiapane strikes me as one of those players that if he’s not in the top 6 he may not cut it in the bottom… like a Ty Rattie type.

    I don’t disagree with his ranking at 5 but of all the remaining prospects, Oliver excites me the most by what he ‘could’ become.

    • Flint

      I very much disagree. Sure, we’re talking prospects and anything can happen. They all still have important steps to take, but the opposite is true of Valimaki. Every time I’ve seen him play I’m blown away. This kid could really be something. He could not be anything, but at this point he’s a as good of a prospect as we have, especially now that Fox is gone.

      Valimaki doesn’t lack anything important, it’s only a question of his ceiling and if he can keep bringing it as the level increases. Kylington is the same, but he has serious holes… and they are holes that way more often than not do not survive the NHL.

      Think of a 18,19 and 20 year old Dion Phaneuf (similar issues). And Kylington is very far from reaching Dion’s level in so many other aspects of the game.

      • Bean-counting cowboy

        Again, I don’t disagree with where he is ranked at 5. I also think Valimaki has a higher chance of being an impact NHL’er than Kylington and should be ranked higher. I still think Kylington’s skating is a cut above, giving him the higher ceiling. If he can continue to fix said holes… look out.

  • Thunder1

    He didn’t drop five to sixty on draft day ‘cuz of bad luck… there’s something holding this guy back. Oduya’s his buddy, he had a decent career and Shill will too, just not in Flames silks I think. He’ll be the prospect in a future deal that sweetens the pot.

  • Jobu

    Chiller has yet to take top pairing minutes on the squad (Was Wotherspoon and Andersson last year). This year he either shines as a leader defensively, or is pushed back to the second pairing because he still cant keep the puck out of his net. Either way, its truth time.

    Do we consider signng Oduya to a cheap AHL contract. Oduya was a solid defensive player and is close friends with Chiller. Might be good for educational purposes. Could be a good depth move too for a Stone replacement if needed.

    • Stockton's Finest

      When Andersson was called up last year, Kylington was not moved up to top line. I assumed it was not to screw up the chemistry between he and Goloubef. But maybe he was not ready? (Or the whole left/right thing)

      Depending on how camp shakes out, I could see a Stockton top pair as Valimaki and Andersson, keeping Kylington as second pair with Higstrom, Prout, Healey, or someone not signed yet.

      Kylington has speed. That is his main asset. He has a decent shot, when he takes it. But he always seems to be looking for the high-risk highlight reel pass first. My hope is he comes in and lights up the league. In his 4th year, he should.

      In Bull Durham, Crash Davis tell Nuke LaLoosh “Don’t think, just throw”. I would say the same to Oliver: “Don’t think, just shoot”.

  • Off the wall

    I haven’t seen enough of Kylington to make any comments about his game. But weren’t we excited for him, when he was touted as the next Brodie? He’s 21, the same age when Brodie had 3 games with the Flames.

    I really like Cail MacLean, he’s a positive coach and a great teacher. I believe he’ll get the most out of Kylington.
    It should be a great season for Stockton!

  • Flint

    Anytime I have seen Kylington I have had the same thought:
    So close, lots of skill and nope. But I sure hope this kid proves me wrong.

    I sure hope this kid proves me wrong.

    • Justeen Trudope

      I was able to watch him once last year live and I thought the same thing. One of those players that you can praise and cuss all in the same shift. I was blown away with his raw skill tho I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I thought he was by far the most skilled player on the ice I really hope he can round out his game

  • Off the wall

    I sometimes wonder if we’re fans or just critics. Trash away, but the point remains.

    There are very few on FN who have actually watched Kylington over the last few seasons. They just enjoy being the “Dennis Doubters”, because it fits their narrative for the day.
    I’ve watched maybe a dozen games of the Heat and all I’ve seen from Kylington, is a kid with wheels and a offensive flair.
    You can’t make a player faster, but you sure can teach them positioning. That’s what great coaching is for.

    Having watched Matt Phillips for 3 years, I’m confident the kid is going to make the NHL.
    Fans remark , “ He’s too small, he needs to put on muscle, he needs to work on leg strength.
    He’ll get creamed by the big boys” All I have to say , “ You’ve never watched Phillips.”
    He’s always struggling to maintain his weight, not for lack of effort or desire, it’s just his genetic makeup.

    Talent is just something you can’t overlook. Kylington has it.
    Phillips has it.

    Maybe we should just stick to narratives that we actually know, that would make more sense…

    • Flint

      “You can’t make a player faster, but you sure can teach them positioning.” Tell that to Dion, Jovo and a list of hundreds of other defensemen that the game no longer is tailored toward. The game is so fast now you need to understand the game, to think the game, not to be told how to play the game.

      Doesn’t take brains to go fast, but it takes brains to play in the modern NHL.

      Guys like Gaudreau and Tkachuk succeed first and foremost because of what’s in their heads.

      • Off the wall

        You’re comparing a 33 year old to a 21 year old. Cuz that makes total sense?
        Show me a defencemen that doesn’t make gaffes and I’ll show ya a goalie with a 1.00 save percentage over a full season?

        See above about narrative..

      • everton fc

        Perhaps Kylington amounts to nothing more than a decent 5/6 defender. But with his skating ability, his offencive instincts… If he was paired w/a guy like Engelland was here, or Kulak… Or any of a myriad or adequate 5/6 defenders in the league…

    • UpTkachuk

      I get your point. I echo your comment that Kylington is what he is. He brings his talents (whatever they happen to be)…He is not the next Brodie! If I were Flames management, I wouldn’t want a “next Brodie”.
      Kylington deserves the chance to show what he can do, but he’ll only get that chance when there is no question he is ready. As with all players, it’s up to him.

  • The Doctor

    I’m really surprised to see OK as high as #5, given that the chances of him actually cracking the lineup don’t seem to be all that good (compared to, say, Foo).

  • Derzie

    What would a person expect to see on the stat line for a player who cheats in favour of offense? Increased offense, decreased defense. Oliver has decent offense numbers and dismal defense numbers (goal differential). A man who watches every game (SF) confirms this with the eye test. YET, the keyboard jockeys proclaim him to be ‘underrated’. This type of comedy writes itself.

    • canadian1967

      Have you ever watched Eric Karlsson?
      He is also “not very good in his own end”, yet most people (not me) think he is the best “Defenceman” in the league.

      I’m not saying that OK will be EK, but if he can be “alright” Defensively and Dynamite Offensively then what will you think then?

      He might win a couple of Norris Trophies.

  • SeanCharles

    I’m a big fan of this kid. I agree he is our 3rd best defensive prospect but he might have the biggest offensive upside.

    He is likened to Brodie due to his offensive instincts and outstanding skating ability but I think he has a better shot so has a higher upside.

    Its looking like all 6 of our top prospects may push for NHL jobs over the next season or two!

  • Purple Hazze

    For anyone that has “seen” him play, how much confirmation bias is getting in the way of your assessment? He’s known for needing to work on his defensive play, so every time he makes a gaf, it’s magnified in your head and just confirms what you already think while your brain ignores anything to the contrary. It’s whats wrong with the so called “eye-test” and happens to everyone.

    I think I’ll defer to the coaches comments when he says “I think [his defensive play] came along very nicely last year.”

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Maybe I am biased but I think the fans in Stockton should be pumped about their team. There are 2 players like Phillips and Dube that can bring you out of your seat. They are childhood buddies that could find themselves on the same line. Vallimaki seems like he could be the full package and the goaltending duo of Parsons and Gillies have the ability to be difference makers. Sprinkle in players like Klimchuk, Foo, Gawdin, Knillington and this will be an exciting team.