The World Junior Championships are coming up on December 26 and one of the Heat players has been fortunate enough to be tabbed as a key part of a run at gold.
Of course we’re referring to 19-year-old Swede Oliver Kylington, who scored his fourth goal of the season and his second game-winning goal just last night during the Heat’s 5-4 win over Ontario.
“Yeah it’s going to be fun to finally play World Juniors,” Kylington said. “It’s nice to be called and to get a chance to play.”
Coming off an injury last year, Kylington wasn’t named to the preliminary roster for Team Sweden, missing out on a chance to represent his country in one of the best tournaments in the world. While Oliver will miss some time with the Stockton Heat to participate in the tournament, the pride he has to put on the three crowns is apparent when you chat with him.
“It’s not good to miss games here, as of course I want to help us win,” Kylington said, “but it’s an honor to play for Team Sweden and try and win gold and take it back to Sweden.”
Sweden is one of the world powers of hockey and has taken home the gold twice and silver 10 times at the World Juniors. The most recent gold for Sweden came in 2012 when the tournament was hosted in Calgary and Edmonton and featured NHL mainstays like John Klingberg (DAL), Mika Zibanajad (NYR), Rickard Rakell (ANA), and Jonas Brodin (MIN) along with a Stockton tie in former Thunder forward Sebastian Collberg.
However, since then it’s been disappointing results for the Junior Crowns, with their last medal, a silver, coming in 2014 when Sweden hosted the tournament.
“I think we’re always good in the first few games but when it comes to the ‘playoffs’ we need to be better,” Kylington said. “We need to step it up in the later rounds and focus and be prepared for tough games. I hope all the boys are up for it and that we can make it to the Final and hopefully win.”
On this year’s roster, Sweden will be taking two players playing in the American Hockey League counting the Heat defenseman, as well as Buffalo’s first rounder from last year and current Rochester American Alexander Nylander. Only one other player spent time in the AHL this year in Minnesota’s first rounder from 2015, Joel Eriksson Ek, who played 1 game with Iowa and 9 with Minnesota before being sent back to Sweden.
“There are a lot of good players,” Kylington said. “I pretty much know everyone that got the call and I think we’ll have a pretty skilled team. In my head now I think we’ll have two really good lines and some good defense that can create a lot of offense. If we pull together and do our jobs I think we’ll have a good team.”
While Kylington is not the only pro player to get the nod for Sweden, as all but three players are playing pro in Sweden or the USA, he’s the only player to play an NHL game and has the most North American pro experience of them all, so to say he’ll be counted on to help get the gold is an understatement.
He’s enjoying a great start to his season this year too. He’s just a point behind matching his total from last year (12) and has played much better in his own zone, especially since being paired with a quality “stay at home” defenseman in Kayle Doetzel.
Kylington already has an idea who’d be a quality partner in his quest for gold.
“I played a lot with Gabe Carlsson who got drafted in Columbus,” Kylington said. “I played with him for Under-17 and Under-18 teams for Sweden, so I might play with him. I think a tough, hard and simple defensive partner would be the ideal partner for me so we’ll have to see who they team up with me.”