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Bringin' the Swagger

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers web reporter Tom Gazzola described him best. The 6'4", 205-pound defenceman is a rock star. Varying methods have helped Edmonton assemble a roster brimming with vitality, but a unique quality was added when the Oilers selected the Swedish blueliner with the 19th overall pick this past weekend in Minnesota.

The Oilers’ rebuilding plan has been about a change in culture. On-ice performance is usually dictated by locker room mood, meaning General Manager Steve Tambellini has been staunch in his approach to welcome players proud to showcase the team’s historic orange and royal blue colours.

Powered through swagger that oozes pride in his personal and team-built accomplishments, Oscar Klefbom brings something special. His supreme, two-way and highly abrasive skill-set is one thing, but much-needed poise and leadership qualities add a new element to the Oilers' impressionable, top-ranked prospect pool.

At the 2011 NHL Scouting Combine in Toronto, his presence was evident. He was put through the ringer, physically punished for two hours while media and NHL clubs looked on.

When he completed the tests, a horde of reporters met to discuss the pain. He wasn't interested in that; rather, his ear-to-ear smile lit up the room while he discussed the honour of having such an incredible opportunity.

Klefbom skated in 23 games with the league-champion Farjestads BK last season, scoring one goal and two points during his late-season tenure. Mentioning his club's success earned a moment of happiness. He was proud to share in that excitement, high-fiving those that knew his team had come out on top.

Having captained the Swedish under-18 team, leadership isn't a surprise. But he's continually proven that in his mind, less than a week into his pro career, team success is most important.

"They're the champions," he exclaimed following his selection last Friday night in St. Paul. "I wrote a two-year contract with Farjestad. I think I've got a really good opportunity to be a really good player back home."

The decision of whether or not to come to North America was discussed at length, but Klefbom wants to make sure he's ready before making the leap overseas.

"I don't think so. We'll see."

Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor is supportive of that idea, putting his development in a comfortable environment above all else.

"He played a few games in the Swedish Elite League, but didn't get in on a regular basis, so he'll have to get some games in there and we'll evaluate him year-by-year.

"He's a great skating defenceman; solid two-way guy. He moves the puck smartly and competes really hard."

It's a basic, however thorough scouting report that encompasses the special nature of Klefbom's game. He agrees with that sentiment, citing his two-way play as standout feature for the NHL style.

"I'm a big, strong, two-way defenceman. Good skater for my size, a pretty good first pass, a good shot. Good hockey sense and pretty good leadership as well.

"It's smaller ice [in the NHL] and you get more battles. I think I have good range and a good body to play in the NHL."

Engaging physically and potentially even dropping the mitts also bears importance.

"The day will come," he said. "It's a matter of time, so I'll be prepared."

With the hustle of 2011's post-season schedule now behind him, Klefbom is looking ahead to an equally packed summer season as he prepares to develop his game to North American, NHL-ready standards.

"I don't try to be someone who already exists in the NHL," he explained. "I try to be myself and create my own style. It's a lot easier when you have Swedes already over there [in Edmonton]. They're good guys and good hockey players, so I'm looking forward to it. It's exciting."

While he'll be targeting several areas for improvement, quickness especially, each skill will help him become a regular in Sweden's Elitserien before taking on a larger role with the Oilers in the coming years.

"There were games that I played 15-20 minutes and others that I played five. It depends on the team. I hope I'll get some more ice-time this season and next season in Sweden."

Although he won't make his North American debut this year, Oil Country should most certainly be excited about the potential budding from the Oilers' newest 17-year-old gem.

Author: Ryan Dittrick |
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