Sweden's Oscar Klefbom battles with Canada's Tanner Pearson during an exhibition game at the 2012 World Junior Championship on Dec. 23, 2011 at Rexall Place (Photo by Andy Devlin / Hockey Canada).
Edmonton, AB - Each milestone is another step closer to an NHL career, and another checkpoint on a long list of impressive personal accomplishments.
Signed to a three-year entry-level deal with the Oilers Tuesday, Swedish prospect Oscar Klefbom could barely contain his excitement."It's the biggest day of my life. It's a dream come true," he said over the phone, laughing nervously as he described the emotion of putting pen to paper on an NHL contract. "Edmonton is a very nice organization with a lot of history behind it, so it feels really good -- really good."The 18-year-old was selected 19th overall in 2011 and spent the 2011-12 season with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League. In 33 games, he posted two goals, four penalty minutes and a -1 rating in a limited role.Klefbom had considered coming over to North America for the 2012-13 campaign, but the decision was dependent on whether or not he'd see an increase in ice time in the SEL. With Jonas Brodin (Minnesota Wild) and others not returning next season, he'll get it."I said if I'm not allowed to play about 15-20 minutes I would come over this year," Klefbom explained. "But I played about 18-19 minutes on average in the playoffs, so I think this year is going to be a really good experience for me and a good opportunity to be even better with a bigger role and more responsibility."Brodin was chosen nine spots higher, 10th overall at last year's NHL Entry Draft; he's decided to come over to North America to join the Wild organization this season. Klefbom admits it will be an odd feeling not seeing a friend and longtime teammate suit up alongside him, but he's ready for the challenge."We've played with each other for a lot of years now, so it's going to feel a little bit strange," he said. "I wish him all the best, he's a really good guy and I'm going to miss him very much -- I think he'll earn a spot on the Wild this year."Jonas has some skill that I don't have and I have some things that he doesn't have. I got to know him very well over the years, so I'm taking something with me. I tried to take out the good things that he does every day, so he taught me a lot."When Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini's extension was announced, he commented on Klefbom's situation regarding playing time in Sweden. With a larger role nearly cemented for development purposes, the next step is getting the 6'3", 200-pound defenceman to Edmonton to suit up in an Oilers jersey.Even if, for now, it's just of the practice variety."Here in Sweden the Elitserien season starts in September, so I was not allowed to come to the big (main) camp in Edmonton," Klefbom said. "But I will be coming to the team's development camp in a couple weeks. It's going to be really amazing, really unbelievable. I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait."The Karlstad native said he's heard about what's covered and the camp's teaching methods, and is excited to hone his skills alongside the Oilers' seasoned instructors. He already has an agenda in mind."I'm a big guy. I'm 200-plus pounds, so I have to work on having quick feet," he explained. "Also, my shot is pretty important. You never survive in the NHL without having a good shot, so the shot is my first priority. Getting quicker feet is the second one."The Oilers' prospect development camp runs June 25 to July 2 at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.While it will be Klefbom's orange and blue debut, he's already well-acquainted with Edmonton. During the 2012 World Junior Championship, Team Sweden got a chance to play against Team Canada in an exhibition game on Dec. 23, 2011 at the Oilers' home rink.That, too, was a dream come true. It was the precursor to a tournament that saw Sweden win the gold medal over Russia, and Klefbom earn First-Team All-Star honours -- scoring a goal, two points and a +8 rating in six games."It was the biggest thing in my whole career so far," he said. "The crowd was unbelievable. I'm not used to that kind of crowd, so it was a whole new experience. When we beat Canada at Rexall Place, I'll never forget that game.
"It was unbelievable."We were busy with hockey a lot of the time, but we stayed at the Sutton Place Hotel downtown. I like the city very much, so I'm looking forward to get to Edmonton again in the summer. I hope to have a good visit."