I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a really small kid. Just playing in the NHL and playing against good players in the biggest league in the world ... It’s going to be a great night. - Oliver Kylington
SAINT PAUL, MN -- What a difference 10 months makes.
287 days ago, Oliver Kylington was waiting to hear his name called at the 2015 NHL Draft. He had been passed over in the first round despite being tabbed as NHL Central Scouting's sixth-ranked skater and when the Calgary Flames realized they could nab him mid-way through the second round, they leaped at the opportunity.
Making a trade with the Arizona Coyotes to move up, they selected Kylington 60th overall, adding a mobile, offensive-minded blueliner to their prospect pool.
They signed the Stockholm product to a three-year, entry-level deal on July 15 and in September, assigned him to the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League.
Despite being the youngest player in the AHL this year at just 18 years of age, he acquitted himself nicely in Stockton. It took some time to adjust to a new country, new ice size, and new league but the transition went relatively smoothly for the defenceman.
"I think just living over here you learn a lot living by yourself and taking care of yourself and small stuff off the ice," he said.
"And of course on the ice, with the North American hockey on the ice and the locker room and routines. I think it’s been a fun experience. I think it was good for me to move this time when I’m so young. It’s good."
In 43 skates with the Heat, Kylington managed five goals and 11 points while picking up 12 PIM. As the season has rolled along, he has earned more ice time and his confidence in all areas of his game has flourished.
"I’ve been doing a lot of hard work in the gym, trying to build some muscle and get stronger and bigger and faster. My season’s been good, I think.
"The first half has been pretty good. After Christmas I think I’ve been playing a better game on the defensive part. I think it’s been a pretty good year. I’m pretty proud of that."
Thanks to his continued development under the watchful eye of Stockton bench boss Ryan Huska, Kylington will cap off his whirlwind year by making his NHL debut in the Flames' season finale in Minnesota.
"Just the road I’ve been going through … getting drafted, getting signed right away and then getting my opportunity in Stockton and trying to take my opportunities as good as I can and playing as good as I can over there and getting my chance here, it’s pretty crazy," he said.
"I’m pretty happy to get this chance and I’m going to do the best with it."
Somewhat serendipitously, some of his family members are in North America this week and will be able to make it Saint Paul in time for the game. Kylington will have his father Borje and brother Adrian in the stands at Xcel Energy Center tonight.
"I think it’s going to be really special. It’s just amazing that my dad is here and it’s timed so well, and my brother too," he grinned. "It’s going to be great to have them in the stands seeing the game live.
"I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a really small kid. Just playing in the NHL and playing against good players in the biggest league in the world ... It’s going to be a great night."