The Calgary Flames may not have taken anyone in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft, but that doesn't mean they didn't get some good prospects along the way. In fact, they managed to get projected first rounder Oliver Kylington all the way down at 60th overall: and now, he's the first prospect out of that draft the Flames have signed.
A gifted skater with excellent offensive instincts, Kylington has played at extremely high levels relative to his age in Sweden. It may have been due to his youth and need to still develop that saw him get bounced around the Swedish leagues, not allowing him to find a true home team.
Hakan Loob, Kylington's (potentially former) General Manager, said himself that he would "sign [Kylington] right away and bring him over to North America". The Flames have gotten the first part down - it's only been a few weeks since Kylington became a member of the Flames - but what's really interesting is the second part.
If Kylington doesn't play in Calgary, his playing rights revert back to his Swedish team as their first option.— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) July 15, 2015
This all but certainly means Kylington will be playing in Sweden next season. As highly rated and projected as he is, Kylington isn't NHL-ready, and his Swedish team has dibs over any non-NHL North American league. (Next season, however, is a whole other issue, as Kylington can opt out then.)
Just for fun, though, here are all of the potential resting stops for the young Swedish defenceman:
This would be Kylington's most recent team, and the one he was already signed with.
Pros: He's already familiar with the team and the systems, and can continue to learn and grow in what will hopefully be a stable environment there, with the possibility of moving back up to the SuperElit League.
Cons: Loob himself thinks Kylington should leave Sweden and get more stability by bringing him to North America, where the Flames can focus on him and work to develop him as best as possible. Also, he'd be getting aquainted to the smaller ice all the sooner.
Brandon Wheat Kings/WHL
The Wheat Kings selected Kylington 60th overall in the CHL import draft.
Pros: The Wheat Kings are coming off an excellent season, where they made it all the way to the WHL Final (ignore the part where the Kelowna Rockets soundly swept them). Kylington would almost certainly be on their top defence pairing, potentially alongside seventh overall pick Ivan Provorov should he not make the Philadelphia Flyers this season. He'd be going to a great team, and in the WHL, the Flames would be able to keep a close eye on him.
Cons: There really aren't any. The WHL gives Kylington the chance to acclimate to western Canada while still playing hockey at a high level. Not as high as the SEL in Sweden, but still relatively high; and in a league that will actually focus on developing him, to boot. Although, it is possible he does end up facing higher quality of competition in Sweden.
Despite being 18, Kylington can play in the AHL as early as next season because he was not drafted out of the CHL.
Pros: Kylington can already play with adults, and he's been doing it since he was 16. Unlike the SEL, the AHL actually is a developmental league, so while the focus is still on winning, making Kylington into a great NHL player is the bigger priority there. The quality of competition is pretty much as high as it's going to get for him without playing in the NHL (and he's definitely not ready for that just yet), and playing him in the AHL could speed up his development.
Cons: There's also a chance it could derail it. The AHL could be above his level at present time. Kylington couldn't find his home properly in the SEL, and the AHL is still a difficult league, filled with a mixture of fellow prospects and grown men. Kylington would be one of the youngest players in the league if that's where he goes (and he likely won't).
With Kylington signed, he can officially play in the NHL.
Pros: Um, can you imagine picking a guy who was initially supposed to be a top five pick all the way down at 60th, and then having him make the NHL immediately? What a steal that would be.
Cons: He's not ready. He's young, raw, and couldn't stick in the SEL. The NHL is not a development league, it is a winning league, and as eager as the Flames may be to have Kylington in the lineup, it's definitely way too soon. We may get to have some fun watching him in some pre-season games, though, before he goes back to Sweden.
Kylington's situation is so interesting thanks to his talent, potential, and inability to stick with one team throughout his draft year. What that means for him heading into the 2015-16 season is yet to be seen, but it's almost certain he'll be playing in Sweden, where hopefully, he'll be able to stick on one team throughout the year and truly grow and develop.
He improved the Flames' defence prospect pool, and getting him at 60th overall was a downright steal. He is a key asset to not mismanage, although there aren't necessarily any bad options here. Wherever Kylington ultimately does play next season, he's going to be one of the players on his team to watch, for sure.