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OLIVER'S TRAVELS

Kylington had a great summer travelling Spain, but now he's back to concentrating on his journey to being a full-time NHLer

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The passport is Swedish. 

The emotional ties, apparently, at least part Spanish.

"Oh, I love Spain,'' Oliver Kylington is confessing, pre-camp fitness-and-testing over for him relatively early Thursday at WinSport.

"Ibiza in particular. Spent two weeks there this summer. Had a great time.

"The whole island is absolutely … beautiful. The water's unbelievable. If you're single and with your friends, the atmosphere is pretty fantastic.

"I'd recommend going to Marbella, on the coast. You fly into Malaga and then drive to Marbella or to Estepona, Valencia. Stunning coastline.

"I can certainly recommend that side of Spain. I could see myself maybe getting a place there someday."

As smitten as he obviously is with the place, Kylington's future gig as Stockholm-based tourism director for Catalonia/Andalusia/Costa Del Sol areas will have to wait a while. Say, upwards of a decade-and-a-half or so.

Still only 22 years old, with a vast horizon of potential as-yet untapped, the sublimely-skilled defenceman feels - with ample justification - that he's on the verge of a tipping point in his young career.

Over 2018-19, remember, the late second-round selection from the 2015 draft logged 38 Flames' starts after being summoned from AHL Stockton, establishing himself as a future cog in the defence corps pecking order.

Now beginning his seventh pro season - he played in the SHL as a 16-year-old - this winter he goes in search of more appearances, minutes, responsibility.

"I thought there was a lot of maturity in his game last season,'' critiques Flames' assistant coach Ryan Huska. "I think for a time there were questions about his being able to defend at this level.

"But the time he put in at Stockton. He's made significant improvements in that area without sacrificing the ability to skate and be up in the play.

"And he's young, still. Feels as if he's been around forever, arriving at 18 years old. He still has to learn how to be stronger, how to better win his battles, be efficient.

"Having said that, with the experience he gained last year, now is the chance for him to show people he can play full-time and that's he's going to take a job."

"A great summer,'' is Kylington's summation of the recently-concluded off-season. "Most of it spent back home in Stockholm, seeing family and friends. I took maybe two, two-and-a-half weeks off, as I said, and then started training.

"Being away, even for that little bit of time, is, I think, good for you mentally. It helps you clear you mind, helps you reload.

"But as you begin building ahead of camp, it felt great to be back and get the body going again after the short break.

"I feel good. I feel fresh. I feel ready."

 

 

When the on-ice of camp got underway on Friday morning, 10 a.m. at the Scotiabank Saddledome, Kylington found himself part of Team Murzyn, alongside the nucleus of the team's defensive corps - Mark Giordano, Rasmus Andersson, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Noah Hanifin and the re-signed Michael Stone.

Juuso Valimaki would be in that heady mix, too, if not for the unfortunate ACL tear sustained just over a month ago.

"What happened to Juuso was terrible,'' says Kylington. "An injury could happen to any of us. You never want to see anything of that nature happen to anybody, least of all a teammate.

"Something like that hits pretty close to home. You only want him to recover as quickly as possible.

"But regardless, my goal for myself is pretty clear, to make the team full time, build off the steps I took last year."

Huska, of course, helped prep Kylington while the two worked together in Stockton.

"As tough as the situation is for Jusso,'' says Huska, "what happened leaves the door for other people. Oliver's in the group trying to be the first one through that door.

"I think he's ready for it. Maybe that's because I've watched him since he was 18 years old and seen how far he's come.

"His challenge will be to prove himself on a nightly basis, starting with the first exhibition game. When he gets that, that's when he'll fully take off."

Kylington sounds like someone ready to explode off the launch pad.

"I just focus on myself, get ready as best I can. In general, the idea is to build off what I've been doing; prepare myself mentally.

"Over the years you learn more and more about yourself and about what everyone expects of you, and then you take that knowledge and make it work for you.

"I'm not satisfied. If you get satisfied as a hockey player, you're stuck. I never want to be stuck. I'm still developing, trying to the best player I possibly can, trying to make a big impact with the team.

"I think I've had good results wherever I've been before. I think I've proven myself over and over again. So I feel really motivated for this year. 

"I think it's going to be fun."

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