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Returning defenceman prospect adjusting to North American pro lifestyle

July 07,2016 02:13

Not only was he focused on improving on the ice, he was adjusting to the North American lifestyle and was able to knock his first NHL game off his bucket list. Kylington suited up for the Flames' 2015-16 season finale in Minnesota. “That game was ...and more »

Flames prospect Oliver Kylington during the Flames development camp at Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary, Alta., on Tuesday, July 5, 2016. AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA
Al Charest / AL CHAREST/POSTMEDIA

Despite his best intentions of making the Calgary Flames, Oliver Kylington departed last fall’s main training camp with a mission.
Improving on his defensive play was No. 1 on his list of things to do in his first season as a professional hockey player in North America.
“He really did a good job,” said Ryan Huska, Calgary’s American Hockey League coach in Stockton. “He was a little less high-risk and made smarter decisions with the puck and learned how to defend. I think he came down there and did an excellent job.
“Even hearing from some guys yesterday, they were impressed at how he was using his stick to his advantage. We were really pleased at how that side of his game has come along.”
Billed as a two-way defenceman coming out of the Swedish Hockey League at last summer’s draft, Kylington’s smooth skating ability was an attractive quality for the Flames when they plucked him in the second round (60th overall).
But seeing that he was still a very raw prospect, they shipped him to Stockton to get some seasoning on the smaller ice surface. His first AHL campaigns was 47 games as he scored five goals and seven assists. But he was a minus-15.
Huska indicated that Kylington needs to generate offence but, at the same time, he needs to learn how to be a 200-foot player in order to make the jump to the National Hoceky League level on a full-time basis.
“We don’t want to take (his offensive game) away from him,” Huska said. “We’re just trying to, over the course of his time with us, help him make some better decisions that won’t put his teammates into trouble. So, if he sees an option to make that pass right away and then look to jump and join (the rush) instead of trying to beat two guys … sometimes that’s what he’d try to do early on and it would get us into trouble.
“But that’s part of the learning process.”
Having played with and against grown men — in Sweden and with the Stockton Heat — for the past three seasons, it’s hard to believe Kylington is only 19 years old.
Not only was he focused on improving on the ice, he was adjusting to the North American lifestyle and was able to knock his first NHL game off his bucket list.
Kylington suited up for the Flames’ 2015-16 season finale in Minnesota.
“That game was special for me,” he said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing for a long time. It’s nice to get it under my belt and get prepared for September.
“It makes me more hungry and more focused.”
At last year’s summer development camp, there was some uncertainty over where Kylington would play in 2014-15 — whether he’d end up back in Sweden, in the Calgary Flames organization or in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings, but he signed with Calgary.
“It was a small goal in my head, just to get my first (NHL) game in my first year pro over here,” Kylington said. “I was not sure that would happen because I’m still pretty young. I was happy it happened. I’m just trying to do my best the whole season.
“I just want to work hard and hopefully get more games in and show I can play at that level.”
Outside of continuing to improve his defensive game, Kylington wants to get stronger and continue to adjust his game to the North American style.
At six-feet, 185-pounds — and still such a young player — there’s room to grow.
“There’s sometimes we’d sit in the coaches’ office and you’d have to remind yourselves, this kid is 18,” Huska said. “Let’s not forget that. Because as the year moved on, sometimes you see something in a player and you want to push and push and push. Sometimes you forget that you’re dealing with an 18-year-old who is living in another country and really knew nobody before he came over.
“There were a lot of challenges he faced. I thought he did a really great job.”
kodland@postmedia.com
Twitter/Kristen_Odland

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