He kept falling. And falling. And falling. Out of the tens, out of the twenties, out of the first round. Falling. Out of the forties. Still falling. Out of the fifties. Falling evermore.
And the Flames kept watching and waiting. Waiting and watching. Somewhere on that draft list, Oliver Kylington's name was written down.
Pick #60, property of the Arizona Coyotes. The Flames couldn't stop waiting, because Kylington couldn't stop falling.
A stellar draft weekend for the team was summed up with this pick, acquired via trading their third rounders (#76 and #83). The 6'0, 180 lb. Kylington was worth considering at #15, so claiming him at 60 is a draft steal without him even playing a game yet. Get hyped Flames fans: his very own former general manager (not to mention former Flame) Hakan Loob is, and for good reason. At 60th overall, the Flames may very well have taken a first round talent.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Draft||2014-15 Team||Vote Total|
||60th overall, 2015
||AIK (Swedish top division), Farjestad BK (Swedish second division)||88|
Kylington's history is a little bit complex. European teams tend to move their youth around a lot between different teams and leagues for the sake of development. Kylington, being an exceptional player, had to acclimatize to the instability. Having joined the professional system at age 14, he had been shifted around aplenty before his draft year. In the interest of keeping this article at a reasonable length (and because there isn't a lot written about him before this year), let's sum up his history, bullet point style:
- At age 14, he was playing so well in the U16 league that he finished sixth in scoring, and first in defender scoring despite being a year younger than most players. He even outscored William Nylander .
- He also got a chance that year in the U18 leagues, where he still managed to remain above water against well-seasoned players.
- Age 15 saw him playing the majority of his hockey against the U20 league. He also lit it up for Sweden in U16 play, nearly totalling a point per game.
- When he was 16, he declared the U20 league to be too easy for him, hitting that 1.0 PPG mark, and graduated to Sweden's top tier of hockey. He remained with Farjestad for over half of their season, and even saw some playoff action. Kylington was also Sweden's captain for their international games.
With all this sensation around him, it's easy to understand why Kylington got the attention of the North American scouts. NHL's Central Scouting ranked him #1 among Europeans to begin the season, and some early mock drafts had him going in the top five.
And they were disappointed. Kylington's draft year was a bit of a mess. After establishing himself in the SHL the previous year, he had begun to struggle and was re-assigned to the U20 team. Still being too good for that league, he was sent to AIK of the Allsvenskan (Sweden's second division) on loan. Injuries had kept him out of his chance at redemption in the World Juniors, and scouts had to settle for his subpar Ivan Hlinka performances.
All the doubt and questions raised by Kylington's draft year caused him to fall, but no one suspected him to fall as far as he did. The Flames passed on him with #53, picking countryman Rasmus Andersson, but couldn't take the chance of hoping Kylington fell to them in the third round. They traded up, and took him in what arguably was the biggest steal of the day.
Strengths and weaknesses
Kylington was considered one of the best skaters in the draft, his ability to seamlessly transition between forward and backward winning over the scouts. This allows him greater leverage in all zones, but especially the neutral zone where he shuts down most offensive breakouts.
He's also very, very, very smart. Coming from a style of hockey where size isn't as valued as it is in North America, Kylington has been forced to develop a very smart defensive game. Using his excellent skating, he shuts down plays fast, reading the ice exceptionally. This also boosts his offensive game. Kylington has been praised for his accurate and smart passes, becoming somewhat of a setup man in Sweden.
Of course, we have to address the questions that were brought up last season. Kylington was accused of quitting on his team, among the other issues that plagued him in his draft year. It's a very unsubstantiated claim (one scout from ISS), and most likely not worth your time. Detractors point to his decreased production as a sign of that, but just remember how excited he was on draft day, particularly when Johnny Gaudreau was mentioned.
Future role with the Flames
It's going to be a few years before he gets to the league, but imagine what the Flames could have defensively when he does arrive. Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Rasmus Andersson, and Oliver Kylington. Wow. He could be a minute muncher against other teams' top four as a bottom pairing defender, and then work his way up to the top of the ring when he hits his prime. The future is very exciting, folks.
Expectations for 2015-16
As we have previously written about, his expectations depend on where he lands in North America. Realistically, he's not going to be with the Flames for next year, so it's either Brandon in the WHL or Stockton in the AHL.
Should he wind up in Stockton, we can expect to see him battle it out with the rest of the prospect pool. He's facing tough, seasoned competition in Ryan Culkin, Brett Kulak, Kenney Morrison, Patrick Sieloff, and maybe Tyler Wotherspoon and Keegan Kanzig (I project Wotherspoon to be 7D in Calgary, and Kanzig to be in the ECHL). It's probably for the best if he plays amongst his future NHL teammates, but it will certainly be a tough ask for an 18-year-old who has never played on North American ice.
It may be a better option to place him in Brandon, should he want to go there. He'll be with Ivan Provorov, another highly touted 2015 draft defenceman, and Ryan Pilon, another elite WHL defender. Learning from the best of his peers will be really beneficial, and could expedite his transition to North America. It also helps that Brandon is a Memorial Cup contending squad next year, and the more hockey, the better.
Earlier on the list
#25 - Ryan Culkin // #24 - Hunter Smith // #23 - Pavel Karnaukhov // #22 - Garnet Hathaway // #21 - Kenny Agostino // #20 - Mark Jankowski // #19 - Bill Arnold // #18 - Kenney Morrison // #17 - Andrew Mangiapane // T-#14 - Mason McDonald // T-#14 - Brandon Hickey // T-#14 - Rasmus Andersson // #13 - Tyler Wotherspoon