#9 Oliver Kylington
Team: Stockton Heat
Drafted: 60th Overall in 2015 (Round 2)
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft. It was a draft weekend that us Flames fans should be able to look back on for years with fond memories. After trading the 15th, 45th and 52nd overall picks to Boston to steal away Dougie Hamilton, it looked like Hamilton would be the sole major prize for the weekend. With the Flames’ three highest picks traded, there would not be much of an opportunity to draft high-end talent. Turns out, Brad Treliving had more great moves to dish out for us. He snagged Rasmus Andersson 53rd overall, the stellar Swedish defenseman from the Barrie Colts, whom apparently fell in the draft due to concerns about his conditioning, even though he was racking up the points in the OHL. In the sixth round, he drafted the smallish late bloomer Andrew Mangiapane at 166th overall, who has since torn up the OHL for the second straight season. There was also a move that could end up being the steal of the draft, trading up to the 60th overall spot, he drafted my personal favourite prospect in the organization, Oliver Kylington.
For those of you who are not familiar with the backstory to Oliver Kylington, here is the history. Kylington played regularly in the Swedish Hockey League at the age of 16, a rare accomplishment for any players, but particularly defensemen. On September 28, 2013 he scored his first SHL goal, making him the youngest ever goal scorer in the history of the entire league. By the end of the year he had posted 6 points in 32 games, not eye-popping numbers, but considering his age and the fact the Swedish league is quite low scoring, the numbers were very respectable. Early in his professional career he was already showcasing elite skating ability, natural offensive instincts and the confidence to try and make things happen whenever he was on the ice.
Heading into his draft season, he was regarded as a player that could be a top 5 pick in the draft. However, during the 2014-2015 season, his stock fell quite a bit. While he still played 18 games in the Swedish Hockey League, he was sent down to the second-tier league for a chunk of time, the junior league for a bit and also missed the World Junior Championship due to injury. Furthermore, substantiated or not, his game was picked apart very harshly by some scouts, citing attitude issues, that he was undersized for a defender at 6-foot 180 pounds, and speaking of issues in the defensive end as if he was not a 17-year-old that would have plenty of time to rectify those deficiencies. All these factors combined, the once projected top 5 pick was now projected to go somewhere in the mid to late first round.
I know myself and some other Flames fans were hoping that the team would select Kylington with the 15th overall pick. After the Hamilton trade, it seemed like there was no way Kylington would be around for the Flames to take by the time they got to make their first selection at 53rd overall. Apparently, the perception of Kylington by NHL GM’s was even less favourable than some of those scouts that were harsh on him, as team after team after team chose to pass on him in favour of other players. Even the Flames passed on him at first when they made their pick at #53, opting for a different Swedish defenseman, the aforementioned Rasmus Andersson. However, Kylington kept sliding and Brad Treliving saw it imperative to make a move for him. He packaged two third round picks off to Arizona for the Flames to move up to the 60th overall spot and select Kylington. The Flames ended up acquiring Hamilton AND were able to draft a player that they should have looked at taking with their 15th overall pick at the 60th spot? Not a bad weekend.
While there were a lot of scenarios as to where Kylington would spend his first season as Calgary Flames property, instead of playing back in Sweden or the WHL, the Flames were able to place Kylington down in the AHL. This gave the team the best chance to start refining the aspects of Kylington’s game that could use work, while helping foster the skills he already has that cannot be taught. Now 19-years-old, he has spent the past three seasons playing with men, including a full season in the AHL where he posted 5 goals and 7 assists in 47 games while adjusting to North American rinks and culture. The Flames were pleased enough with his output and efforts that they recalled him to Calgary to make his NHL debut in the final game of the season in Minnesota, getting him into an NHL game at age 18. Quite the whirlwind of a season for a player just drafted 60th overall.
It is worth noting that in Oliver Kylington’s draft eligible season, he was scoring at a higher points-per-game-rate than another Swedish defensemen that has had some pretty good success at the NHL level, Erik Karlsson was in his draft+1 season. While Erik Karlsson is an elite scoring machine from the backend and we should definitely not be carrying those expectations for Kylington, that is still a remarkable accomplishment and one that is worth keeping in mind. The thing about Kylington is that he is going to be a boom or bust prospect. He could be a top caliber offensive defensemen in the NHL, or he could be a Justin Schultz. The thing that is exciting is that he already has had so much experience playing against older players and has just spent a year playing in the Flames organization, so the team has the chance to bring him along properly and do the best they can to help him develop into the player they want him to be. The Flames definitely know what they could have in the guy; he is absolutely a player to keep an eye on these next couple of seasons.