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Klefbom Set to Make NHL Debut

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
The time has now come for the Edmonton Oilers to get a look at the player they invested the 19th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to acquire. Oscar Klefbom is set to make his NHL debut when the Oilers begin their four-game road trip on Tuesday.

Klefbom was recalled from the Oklahoma City Barons on an emergency basis on Saturday and that ‘emergency’ designation has been lifted as per Head Coach Dallas Eakins.

“We’ll look to get him in the lineup in Minnesota,” Eakins said.

Klefbom was all smiles after practice.

“It’s very exciting,” the defenceman said. “It’s a dream come true so I will work hard every day to get my debut and I’m just looking forward to the first game.”

The Oilers organization has been patiently waiting to see what they’ve got in their 6-foot-3, 213 pound defenceman. Klefbom missed almost all of last season due to injury and has dealt with some of those issues this season as well. However, reports from the Barons in the American Hockey League have been positive with the overwhelming sentiment being that Klefbom has improved has his first North American professional season has progressed.

Prior to last night, the decision of whether or not Klefbom would stay in Edmonton was in doubt. But the Oilers announced last night that Anton Lander would be assigned to OKC while Klefbom remains with the team. As an important part of Oklahoma City’s team and with where they are in terms of the playoff standings, Klefbom’s situation deserved a conversation.

Photo by Jeff Nash/Oilers TV

The decision to keep the 20-year-old defenceman with the big club stemmed from discussions between Eakins and General Manager Craig MacTavish.

“Well it’s a lot of conversations between obviously, Craig and I but we want to get a look at this young man and let him get his feet wet,” Eakins said. “That doesn’t mean he’s going to be here for the whole rest of the year. It’ll depend on how he plays. We were able to get Anton Lander back down there to help Oklahoma City in their next game, which is real important. They had a massive win yesterday, come from behind. We’re really pulling for them.”

Klefbom has practice with the team now since Saturday and has made a nice impression his new head coach in a limited sample size.

“Oscar, at least in practice, he’s extremely hard working, he knows what’s going on, he’s fairly detailed in his work so far and that’s what you usually see when a guy is getting ready to play his first game and he’s up with the NHL team,” Eakins said. “He’s fighting to stay another day and so far, so good with at least how he looks at practice. But practice and games can be far, far different.”

The Oilers could have played Klefbom on Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Kings but instead chose to postpone his debut for the road. Eakins cited the pressure there is on a young defenceman in the NHL and how there are a lot of eyes on Klefbom already.

Photo by Jeff Nash/Oilers TV

“Well, I think… it doesn’t matter much to the player,” Eakins said of whether or not a debut on the road or at home is better. “I think we think about it a little bit more as coaches and management. There’s been a lot talked about this young man and the thing I’m always very leery of is over promoting players, especially with the spot we’re in, in the standings. You’re looking for positives and I want to be real careful with this young defenceman.”

Eakins provides a warning to those who think Klefbom will take off running. He’s a young player making his NHL debut in a tough position to play.

“It’s an extremely hard position to play for a guy of his age but, all reports, he’s played well in Oklahoma City. It’s time for him to get his feet wet and let’s see where he’s at. But I was hesitant to put him in at home and, as much as I’d love our fans to see him play, I think it’s better for the development of the player to get him in on the road with maybe not so many eyes watching him.”

Klefbom agreed that there is pressure on him to succeed but he embraces that challenge.

“Yeah, of course,” Klefbom said. “I was a first round pick so I obviously have a lot of pressure from the fans and stuff but all I like the pressure. I see it as a positive and I will try to prove to myself and to the fans that I’m good enough to play in the NHL.”

For a team that has promising young defensive prospects that they are hoping begin to contribute soon, Klefbom getting his first NHL action is a win for the organization. Especially if he fits right in.

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