By Torie Peterson
Oliver Kylington seems a lot older than he is.
That’s because he’s been around awhile.
At 21 years of age, the defenceman already has five pro seasons under his belt and has suited up for 237 pro games, playing in Sweden’s SHL and Allsvenskan leagues as well as spending the past three seasons in American Hockey League. He also has one NHL game on his resume, making his debut with the Flames on April 9, 2016 in Minnesota.
“He’s still young,” Flames assistant general manager Brad Pascall said. “He’s still developing but we’re really excited with what you see on the ice.”
When the Flames plucked Kylington 60th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, they were selecting a player who had made his professional debut when he was 16 years old and had been honing his craft against men since he was a teenager.
After being drafted, the Stockholm native and the Flames decided his development was best served by playing in North America and he was assigned to the Stockton Heat in the fall of 2015. In his rookie season, he registered five goals and 12 points.
He followed up his rookie season with a six-goal, 27-point 2016-17 campaign and earned his first NHL call-up for his efforts.
Last year, he set new career highs with seven goals and 35 points through 62 skates with Stockton.
When he joined the organization, he was known for his production and skating skills that were among the best in his draft class. But Kylington hasn’t been pigeonholed into a pure offensive role with the Heat. Ryan Huska and the coaching staff in Stockton have worked diligently at ensuring he’s developing into a rearguard who can be trusted to play in all situations.
“When you think of Oliver, you think of the progression of his overall game,” Pascall said. “He’s progressed every year in points … He’s been a guy, that since his first year in the American League, that we’ve had in offensive situations and our coaching and development staff have really focused in on his entire game, looking at his defensive awareness and his defensive abilities.
“He’s got this pure passion – his goal setting and wanting to be better and wanting to be in the NHL. He’s pushing himself to reach those goals.”
Thanks to the three years he’s already spent playing pro in North American, Kylington has established a strong base ahead of the 2018-19 season. As one of the organization’s top defensive prospects, Pascall and hockey operations expect the blueliner to come into camp in September and make a strong push to land a roster spot in Calgary.
“If you look across the league, unless you’re the elite of the elite, you need some time rounding out your game, solidifying some of your strengths and working on your weaknesses, to be able to play an 82-game season in the NHL,” Pascall noted.
“A lot of the time, solid development requires patience and focusing in on a development plan: ‘Hey, these are the things that I need to work on and these are things the coaches need to work on with me.’
“We’ve had that in place for Oliver and he continues to follow through on those things. We’re expecting him to come to camp stronger and more focused than ever.”