I have really been focused on Calgary and Stockton and I want to show everyone that I can play at the highest levels in North America. - Oliver Kylington
STOCKTON, CA -- Always earned, never given.
That was the creed echoed throughout the Calgary Flames locker room during their 2014-15 season that ended with an impressive playoff run.
It is also very fitting of current Stockton Heat defenceman Oliver Kylington’s path down the road less traveled to the AHL.
Kylington is an 18-year-old rookie in the AHL, preparing to play his first-ever regular season games here in North America. However, the path to this point was a rare and uncertain one.
After the Flames selected Kylington in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft, he had four different places that he could have ended up to begin the 2015-16 campaign – back in Sweden in their top league, Calgary, Stockton or in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
“Ultimately we’re going to make the decision that’s best for his development,” Brad Pascall, assistant general manager of the Calgary Flames, said. “Based on his play in camp and his level of development, we felt that the AHL was the best place for him for now.”
While management may have considered sending Kylington to juniors prior to his impressive camp, the native of Stockholm, Sweden knew that he wanted to either be in Calgary or Stockton all along.
“I want to play pro in North America this season,” Kylington said bluntly. “I have really been focused on Calgary and Stockton and I want to show everyone that I can play at the highest levels in North America.”
Kylington’s success in North America will depend on his ability to adjust his game to the smaller ice surface and the more physical play featured here in the western hemisphere.
“I know I have things to work on,” Kylington admitted. “This is a different game over here, especially in the defensive zone. I have to work on the small details in my own zone and be as competitive as I can be out there.”
Pascall agreed with Kylington’s point about working on details in the defensive zone and added that those types of subtleties in the game come with time.
“With his age he just needs to mature his game,” Pascall explained. “His strengths are his skating and how quick he is with the puck. With time comes maturity and with the great coaching he’s receiving here, he’ll make great strides in his consistency as well.”
It isn’t as if there aren’t previous examples of players like Kylington succeeding at the highest levels though.
His countrymen John Klingberg, Hampus Lindholm and Jonas Brodin have all become some of the best young defencemen in the NHL, not to mention two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. These players all share similar skill sets that were bred in Sweden and polished in North America.
Skilled, puck-moving defencemen are flooding the highest levels of hockey, while the 6-foot-7 bruisers are few and far between.
Kylington has looked good in camp here in Stockton thus far and projects as a significant factor in the Heat lineup night in and night out.
“I feel that I’ve improved every day,” Kylington said. “I listened a lot and really feel that I’ve had a good camp so far.”
Another focus of the Swede’s camp has been the off-ice workouts. Building his strength is essential to him lasting throughout the demanding schedule that pro hockey in North America puts players through.
Luckily for Kylington, he has landed at one of the newest and largest facilities in the AHL here in Stockton and he’s been one of the more vocal players about his excitement to be at this facility.
“The locker room and workout areas are both great,” Kylington exclaimed. “It’s always nice to have an office like this and I’m excited to be here.”
Of course playing pro hockey in California has other upsides too.
“I love California and the weather is my favorite thing about being here, Kylington said. “It’s nice to be able to have a good workout and then have warm weather outside.”
Soak in that warm weather while you can, Oliver. It gets pretty cold in Calgary.