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Kylington adjusts well in first season in North America

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Sand, sun and surf.

And skating.

Not a bad situation for an 18-year-old playing his first season of hockey in North America.

And Oliver Kylington knows it.

“It was fun. It was nice to come over here to the United States and play hockey,” said Kylington, the youngest player in the American Hockey League in 2015-16. “I think this year has been fun. I’ve been learning a lot of new things. It’s been a good year for me, I think.”

Understandably, Kylington’s first season of skating in North America required a substantial learning curve.

The Stockton Heat defenceman is no stranger to life on his own, though.

He was 16-years-old when he turned pro, playing for Farjestads BK in Karlstad, Sweden.

And when he was drafted in the second round (No. 60) in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Calgary Flames, Kylington was encouraged to make the jump from Sweden to play professional hockey in North America.

The adjustment, both on and off the ice, proved to be a challenge once again.

“On the ice it’s new teammates, new guys in the locker room, new faces,” he said. “You need to get to know everybody and try to build a relationship with them. I think that’s been going good. I’ve been learning all the guys in the room, and getting new friends. That’s good.

“Off ice, living-wise, has been really good for me to know how to live by myself in a different country. I lived by myself in Sweden, but it’s totally different to live by yourself in another country. It was a lot of learning points this year. I appreciated it a lot to get this opportunity and learn and grow as a person.”

Veteran roommate Riley Blair helped with the off-ice adjustment along the way.

On the ice, Kylington is still very much a work in progress.

The 6-foot, 183-pound freshman had five goals and 12 points in 47 games with Stockton, and was named the Heat’s rookie of the year.

Progress has come with a period of adjustment.

“The game is different over here,” Kylington said. “You can see a lot of similarities, but the game is different. It’s different players over here, if you want to compare it to Sweden and Europe. I think you learn to adapt when you come over here. I felt as each game went I felt a little bit better all the time. That’s the steps I want to take.

“I feel a lot like my offensive game is coming natural for me. That’s not a big issue for me, I think. More of the defensive part to get more comfortable there and make simple plays when I should.”

It’ll come with both time and experience.

It’ll be amplified with a dash of NHL experience.

Experience Kylington already has.

The Stockholm, Sweden native earned a call-up for the final game of the Flames season, playing over 17 minutes against the playoff-bound Minnesota Wild.

He became the first 18-year-old blueliner to play for the Flames since the 1980s, and the second in team history, following Al MacInnis, to debut before turning 19.

It accomplished one goal for Kylington, and continued the hunger for another.

“A really small goal I had that I didn’t know I was going to get through was to get one game in the NHL,” he said. “That I got. I was really thankful for that. I worked my ass off the whole year to show that I can play there.

“I think every player thinks about playing for the Calgary Flames. That’s the main goal. You need to have small steps on the way. That’s what I work for. I want to play in the NHL and I want to play for Calgary. It starts with a good summer now with good training sessions and getting in shape and hopefully do as best as I can at training camp.”

Because he’s more comfortable after a season in Stockton.

More focused after a year in North America.

And, as a result, more determined.

“I feel this was a good way to start, as young as I am, to really get to know the league,” he said, “and hopefully do it better next year.”

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