2012 World Junior Championship at Rexall Place (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club).
EDMONTON - Never one to sigh, shrug his shoulders and sit back with a defeatist attitude when the going got tough, Oilers prospect Oscar Klefbom accepted his fate of season-ending shoulder surgery in the best way possible.
"I've hurt my shoulder pretty bad, so we've done some testing, some MRIs and stuff -- we'll see how it (surgery) goes," said Klefbom who, as usual, was smiling as he stood in the Oilers locker room and couldn’t help but imagine returning to Rexall Place once he’s healthy again. "I think I'll be going back to Sweden tomorrow and probably come back for the surgery.
"It's frustrating, of course. But I'll try to come back even stronger in the summer. I'm trying to be positive and keep my head high."
The Oilers wouldn't divulge what, exactly, is damaged in Klefbom's crippled left wing -- all that matters is the recovery time, which will come after his scheduled surgery date of Dec. 13 in Edmonton. Whether or not the Karlstad native will have it done here or in Sweden is undecided, as he mentioned that the Oilers and Farjestad will "have a discussion" to determine what's best.
It's expected that he'll miss up to six months, putting him right in line to continue on as normal with his off-season training schedule.
"[The situation] is bad with my shoulder, but I'm making some big progress on the ice," said Klefbom. "I hope to be ready for the summer camp (Oilers Development Camp in late-June, early-July 2013). I'm really looking forward to next year and to move to this town."
The 19-year-old was playing in his third year with Farjestad BK of the Swedish Elite League, 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.
But on Oct. 9 in a road game vs. Vaxjo, Klefbom was nudged from behind in what he deemed to be a "dirty hit," sending him heavily into the boards.
"I lost my balance after the hit, tried to recover and fell," he said, recalling the incident that he didn't think much of at the time. While the hit itself wasn't substantial, Klefbom's attempt to brace himself did most of the damage. He reached up to grab the boards and soften the impact, but this arm got tangled up in the split-second accident, causing it to crumple underneath him.
"It happens, unfortunately. That's hockey."
Unquestionably, Klefbom is the Oilers' top defensive prospect next to Justin Schultz, who's lighting it up with the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons. While the club would rather have not seen the 19th overall pick in 2011 go down, progress has been made in his development and there's reason for excitement and optimism around their prospect's growth. The 6'3", 201-pound defenceman could very well earn a spot on the Oilers' opening-night lineup come September as a "meat-and potatoes," "two-way" defenceman, says General Manager Steve Tambellini.
"I think I've improved my physical game a little bit, so I think that can make by chances better to take the step to the NHL," he said. "It all started well with the European Trophy and the Swedish Elite League season. I started to build my confidence and soon I got the opportunity to play 25 minutes (per game) with Farjestad."
Klefbom's first chance to skate on Rexall Place ice came at last year's World Junior Championship in an exhibition game vs. Canada. It was the precursor to a successful tournament in which he posted a goal, two points and a WJC-best +8 rating. It all earned him First Team All-Star honours, in addition to the irreplaceable gold medal that was won in overtime in front of a ruckus crowd at Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome.
It truly was the turnaround to Klefbom's 2011-12 season, and he's hoping similar success will follow the next time he laces them up in Alberta. After all, his career as a pro in Sweden is now over. It's now time to become an Oiler.
"Oh my God," the slick Swede said, glancing around at his surroundings at Rexall Place. "I can't wait until next year. I'm trying to take this injury in the best way and try to come back even stronger next season."