| Photo courtesy of Farjestad BK Karlstad.
EDMONTON - Eleven weeks after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, Oilers prospect Oscar Klefbom is back in Edmonton.
Back on Oct. 9 in a Swedish Elite League game vs. Vaxjo, Klefbom was nudged from behind and was sent heavily into the boards as a result. On the six-hour, through-the-night bus ride home to Karlstad, the defenceman experienced bleeding in the surrounding muscle and required the use of a sling.
The initial thought was that it wasn't too serious. But after seeing little improvement to his condition in the weeks that followed, he and the Oilers determined that surgery was the best course of action.
"It feels pretty good," said Klefbom as he watched the Oilers take on the Dallas Stars Tuesday night at Rexall Place. "It's been a couple months now, the process has been good and I'm really quite happy with how everything has gone. The surgery and recovery so far has gone quite well.
"The Oilers have five games here at Rexall Place over the next two weeks, so we arranged for me to come here, watch some games, meet the guys in the locker room and get a check-up from the doctors as well."
The 19-year-old was playing in his third year with Farjestad BK, posting a career-high in points with three assists and leading the Elitserien in plus/minus with a +7 rating through 10 games this season.
Klefbom was expected to miss up to six months after surgery, but in consultation with a shoulder specialist back home in Sweden, it was determined that his recovery was ahead of schedule.
"He told me that my progress has been really good," said Klefbom. "I'm probably about six weeks ahead of where I should be, which is really encouraging. It was my goal to have the surgery early enough so I could get back to my normal summer routine. It looks like I'll be able to do that easily and be ready to go for the summer camp (Oilers Development Camp in July).
"It's been a long, long process -- a long season of rehab when, of course, I'd rather be playing hockey."
Much like the Oilers at the centre position, Farjestad was hit hard with injuries on the back end. Klefbom, Sanny Lindstrom and others had all missed a significant period of time by mid-November when the club was struggling to meet expectations and found themselves in fifth, 13 points behind the Elitserien-leading HV71.
With injured bodies returning to the lineup, Farjestad has won 22 of its last 30 games, are now two points up on HV71 and sit in second place behind Skelleftea (eight points back). Seven games remain in the season before the playoffs get going in March.
Farjestad won the Le Mat Trophy as Swedish Champions in Klefbom's rookie year (2010-11). There's no question the club would like to have their top defenceman back in the lineup to help them on their championship quest once again, but Klefbom isn't penciling in any more ice time until the summer.
There's too much at stake.
"People back home want me to play, but I think there's a very, very, very small chance of that happening," said Klefbom. "It's my goal to play over here in Edmonton next season and in order to that, I want to be as fit and as healthy as I can possibly be. As much as I'd like to be back on the ice and help Farjestad, I need to be ready for next year. I don't want to risk anything by playing sooner than I should. It's tough watching, but I'm comfortable waiting. It's what's best for my career and best for the Oilers."
When Klefbom last visited Edmonton, the NHL and NHLPA were still squabbling over the details of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. He got a tour of the building and of the club's state-of-the-art locker room, but it was as barren as the unoccupied seats on Day 73 of the lockout.
"Oh my God, this is so much better," laughed Klefbom. "It was very boring last time. I spent so much time at the hotel with nothing much to do, but now I'm here again and the lockout is over. This is better, watching games. It's a good opportunity to take it all in and learn as much as I can about the NHL."
In addition to working with the Oilers during his two-week stay in Edmonton, Klefbom is keeping in close contact with another mentor of his. Nineteen-year-old rookie Jonas Brodin, Klefbom's former defence partner in Farjestad, is quickly emerging as one of the Minnesota Wild's most dominant blueliners.
Brodin was drafted 10th overall in 2010, nine spots ahead of Klefbom, and is currently averaging over 22 minutes per game in ice time. The defenceman's season was nearly derailed in a strange, full-circle twist of fate three months ago. On Nov. 2 when Oilers forward Taylor Hall was making his AHL debut with the Oklahoma City Barons, Hall hammered Brodin -- then with the Wild's AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros -- with a vicious hit, resulting in a broken clavicle.
"I talked to Jonas (on Monday)," said Klefbom. "It's unbelievable how he bounced back from that injury and has been playing so strong in Minnesota. He's a really good hockey player and he's taught me so much throughout my career.
"Everything is so much faster and every guy is so damn skilled in the NHL. Back home in Sweden, the rosters aren't quite as deep and there isn't as much competition for a spot, but you can tell that isn't the case here.
"We'll see. I hope I'm prepared for next season. I've worked my whole life to be ready and I truly believe I am."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick