Oliver Kylington was expected to be a top pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft. As his draft year went on, though, his stock fell. And fell. And continued to fall. Kylington went from the first-tier Swedish league to the second; just as he fell from a projected first round pick to the bottom of the second.
In the Swedish Elite League, Kylington played for Farjestad as a 16 and 17-year-old. The president of hockey operations? None other than former Flame Hakan Loob.
Loob hopped on the Fan 960 to talk about Kylington, and had a lot of praise for one of the newest Flames, saying there's no doubt he'll be an NHLer - and probably a premium player, at that. And if Loob was in charge of the Flames, he'd have Kylington in the AHL as soon as the 2015-16 season.
Getting out of Sweden
"I think he could play in the A. I think he could develop a lot there. Because I think what he needs is a little bit of a tougher going," Loob said. If he's playing at a higher level, then he'd be able to grow into it.
He also thinks that Kylington simply needs to get out of Sweden. After bouncing around six or seven teams there - per Loob's estimate - Kylington has yet to find a home. With Calgary, though, he has an organization that will look out specifically for him, and do its absolute best to develop him to his full potential; something he wasn't getting in Sweden.
The reason Kylington dropped from the first-tier Swedish league to the second? "We thought maybe that his development was a little too quick for himself. Everybody was expecting him to do great things in every game. We wanted to slow him down a little, and maybe he wanted to rush a little too much," Loob explained. His coaches in the SEL - whose jobs are to win games, not develop prospects - may have gotten impatient with him, and ultimately, the feeling was Kylington would perform better at a lower level.
"When he was young he was pretty much three, four, five years ahead of most 12, 13, 14-year olds," Loob said. His being so far ahead of his own age group, especially in the skating department - and he is a phenomenal skater - led to Kylington playing on the top pairing, and often carrying teams. This in itself explains why he was going at such a fast pace in his development: it's what he was used to.
Phenomenal talent, with one big hiccup
"His skating is just unbelievable," Loob explained. "When he takes the puck in his own end, he could go by any team, in any league. His skating is something different, something extraordinary, that's for sure.
"When it came to playing offence and trying to start an offensive threat all the time, he was just really, really good. Just to mention, he was the youngest player to ever in the Swedish League to score a goal, and that was just a rush; he was going all the way with that, too.
"In that sense, he was ready to play regularly on a team in our league."
So the problem? Kylington has his skating and offensive abilities down pat, but his defensive side of the game needs some work. Loob compared him to the recent two-time Norris winner, Erik Karlsson, as a measure of not just his abilities, but how to further proceed with Kylington's development.
"[Karlsson] could go up, score the greatest goal, but also be on the ice for three, four goals against," Loob said. "I think Ottawa did a heck of a job having the patience, letting him make the mistakes, let him lack certain things on D." Players grow and learn from those situations, and that's exactly what the Senators allowed Karlsson to do.
Loob is confident that a similar situation can play out with Kylington.
An NHLer in just a few years
Kylington won't be in the NHL next season, but Loob feels that with a two-three year plan, the Flames can have him in the NHL within that timeframe. Calgary can give him the stability he needs to meet his true potential, which is that of an elite defenceman. And Loob sincerely believes that's exactly what he'll become.
As for any attitude issues? Not a problem at all, said Loob, who once spent a four hour car ride with him, picking him up from Stockholm to Karlstad, where Farjestad plays. He's a bright, mature, outgoing kid who has no problems making friends, according to the president of hockey operations.
Loob is someone who knows Kylington both in a personal and professional sense. So when he speaks so highly of him, it should perhaps come with just a grain of salt... but just one grain. There's a reason his stock was so high before this season, and we now have a clearer understanding as to just how, and why, it fell; and it's not an indictment on Kylington's skill or personality at all.
Kylington has the skating, he has the scoring; he just needs to learn the defence and how to take things slower. After playing at a high level in Sweden, the AHL may very well be the best bet for his development.
So "sign him. Right away," as Loob encourages. Maybe the Flames will heed his advice.