Oliver Kylington didn't get a chance to impress scouts by playing for Sweden at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in January.
The defenseman sustained an injury during an exhibition game against Canada at Canadian Tire Centre prior to the start of the tournament and was unable to participate.
In a tournament typically dominated by 19-year-old players, Kylington (6-foot, 180 pounds), who turns 18 in May, might not have looked out of place. The event had many top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft, including the projected top two picks, Canada center Connor McDavid and United States center Jack Eichel.
While Kylington might not be in their class, he is projected to be a first-round pick in June at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. He is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top international skaters eligible for the 2015 draft.
It's an interesting place to be for someone a family background quite different from most players.
His mother fled a civil war in Eritrea when she was a teenager, finding refuge in Sweden. Kylington’s parents met in Stockholm.
Kylington's father didn't play organized hockey but had a passion for the game as a fan. Growing up Oliver played hockey, soccer and floorball growing up. The demands of practices and an injury playing soccer ultimately forced him to pick one sport, and he chose hockey.
"My dad has been a big supporter for me in my hockey," Kylington told NHL.com. "He didn't play hockey when he was little; just for fun. He played handball. He had a bit of a passion for hockey and when I was little I tried out some sports like soccer, hockey and floorball. I liked hockey and soccer. When I got to an age I chose hockey and I stuck to it.
"My mom supported me in every way. They didn't have any hockey in Africa, but she always has supported me and been there for me."
Kylington started the season playing for Farjestad in the Swedish Hockey League, but with him and the team struggling he was loaned to second-division team AIK. He has 12 points in 35 games between the teams. He returned to Farjestad in January and currently is with their junior team in the playoffs.
Despite his struggles at the pro level and missing the WJC, he remains a possible first-round choice because of his skating and offensive potential. In NHL.com's most recent mock draft, Kylington is the No. 16 choice in one, No. 28 in another.
"[I'm a good] skater, can make the good first pass and like to join the rush to make plays in the offensive zone, maybe score some goals," Kylington said. "I try to do it every day. I need to work on that."
After a few viewings of Kylington, one NHL scout from an Eastern Conference team said: "Skilled, skates well, moves the puck. He's got a pretty high offensive side. I don't know if he's a top-10 pick, but a no-brainer first rounder."
"He's a talented first-round prospect," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He's an excellent, smooth skater. He's an offensive defenseman with excellent vision and playmaking skills. He has very good eye-to-hand coordination, is dangerous on the power play. He has all the tools needed and is a finesse-type player."
Pittsburgh Penguins co-director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said Kylington's skill set is well-suited for the NHL game today, where teams want to get the puck moving quickly out of their zone.
He said those skills, including his skating ability and good vision to help evaluate options, could put Kylington in the top half of the first round.
"He's such a good skater," Sexton said. "Everybody wants those types of [defensemen] now. Nobody wants to spend time in their zone and a guy like that has got the sense to move the puck and the ability to skate it out."
Sexton said Kylington's skating reminds him a bit of Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson.
"He's that kind of skater," Sexton said. "He doesn't have Karlsson's offensive capabilities, but from a skating perspective [they're similar]. [Kylington] is a terrific skater. You look at the way the game is played now, you need defensemen who are mobile with good hockey sense, can spread the puck around the ice well. He's got good vision.
"He's got to get a lot stronger, but he's got all the makings of a real good puck-moving [defenseman]."
Sexton said Kylington won't be physical but can be effective defensively.
"It's not his makeup [to be physical]. He doesn't have that body type," Sexton said. "He'll be more of a stick-and-pin defenseman as opposed to a hammer. He's not a real big body. He'll play to his strengths, which are smarts and quickness."
Kylington, like most young Swedish defensemen, had a popular choice when asked about the player he looks up to most.
"Of course, [Nicklas] Lidstrom; I watched him growing up," he said of the former Detroit Red Wings captain.
Kylington also showed a little love for hockey history.
"I've seen some clips of Bobby Orr," he said of the Boston Bruins legend and Hockey Hall of Fame member. "I like him. He's a sick player. I try to complement my game with those. They were my idols."
Author: Chris Stevenson | NHL.com Correspondent