First Round Targets: Oliver Kylington

Today we’ll take a closer look at the first SHL prospect we’ve covered so far in TLN’s First Round Targets series, a league in which the Toronto Maple Leafs have uncovered some serious talent lately. Can Oliver Kylington, the 6’0, 181lb Farjestad defender, be a building block in Toronto’s rebuild much in the same way that William Nylander and Andreas Johnson are expected to be? Let’s break it down… 

The Numbers

Another prospect that can be found all over the place in pre-draft rankings, some see Kylington as a top flight talent worthy mid-first round pick, while others don’t see him as a top thirty prospect. Kylington was ranked as the top European skater at the midterm mark by NHL Central Scouting, but slipped to 6th in their final rankings. Future Considerations has Kylington ranked 38th, while McKeen’s recently dropped him all the way down to 46th. ESPN’s Corey Pronman has him 15th. There’s a good chance that Kylington is still available when Toronto picks 24th overall, but it wouldn’t be too crazy if another team reached for him just prior. 

Kylington played on several teams and at several levels this season, showing off his skills and promise despite never really being able to settle in. Spending time with both of Farjestad’s J20 and SHL team, Kylington also spent time with AIK in the Allsvenskan on loan. On the international circuit, he played for both the Sweden U18 team at the World’s, as well as making a couple appearances with the U20 team. Most notably, Kylington did not suit up for Sweden’s U20 team at the World Junior Championships. 

His short stints across multiple leagues only provide us with a small sample size, but the points that Kylington put up were still very impressive. The list of players who’ve put up comparable points-per-game in both the SHL and Allsvenskan at Kylington’s age is very short – think six to eight players in each league. While many of them never made an impact on the NHL, Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson’s name stands out. That might not sound all that exciting to some, but the low number of players to ever put up similar production is encouraging.

The Eye Test

Pretty much everyone will tell you that Kylington is an offence-first blueliner and one of the best skaters in the entire 2015 draft class. He’s exactly the kind of player that helps his team push the puck in the right direction, but will still be criticized for turnovers, defensive zone lapses, and not being big enough.

From Future Considerations’ 2015 NHL Draft Guide

[Kylington] loves to rush the puck up the ice and push the pace of the game. He has ice in his veins and looks to have poise beyond his years with the puck on his stick. Skating is exceptionally smooth and he can pick up speed or change direction in a flash. Moves the puck well and can spot developing opportunities with his great anticipation. Makes excellent, strong passes both short- and long-range. We love his vision coming out of his own zone and his ability to head man the puck to his forwards up ice. Great in transition and doesn’t ever limit himself, always finding alternative plays if problems arise with his original plan. He doesn’t have an overpowering shot but can get the puck on net and is able to get the puck off his blade quickly.

From Corey Pronman’s 2015 Top 100 Prospects

Kylington is a very skilled puck handler, who makes a lot of creative plays and controls the puck in tight spaces as well as the best forwards in this class. He stretches the ice well, and can control a power play very effectively. His offensive IQ and vision are high-end, and his total package offensively can create chances out of nowhere and control the game. 
He has his warts, however, as he isn’t the best in the physical aspects of the game in terms of effort or his frame, and his shot could be better. His defense isn’t perfect, but it isn’t bad. If anything I’d project him to be about average defensively, while being a top-end offensive defenseman.

Does He Make The Leafs Shortlist?

Absolutely. Many scouts and scouting services have placed a ‘boom-or-bust’ label on Kylington, but if the Leafs do want to hit a home run with the second of their first round picks, they’ll need to swing hard and accept a certain amount of risk. Toronto doesn’t have to pick Kylington if he’s still on the board at 24, but he should be a strong consideration. 

  • Cloud09

    I wouldn’t just because he’s very similar to Gardiner and Reilly and thus there is only so many power play minutes to go around. Plus Damien Cox also pointed to that there are questions about his creativity in side the opposition’s blue line. Yes he’s a high risk in that while he could end up being like Karlsson but he could also end up like M.A. Bergeron, basically a 3rd pairing power play specialist that plays 12 minutes or less a night. If we’re going to take a high risk player like him I’d rather it be in a player type and position we don’t already have multiples of ie. Daniel Sprong.

    • Jeremy Ian

      I think this is the smartest observation. Why would we go after another Gardiner/ Reilly type when we have other holes to fill?

      If he was much better than the rest of the field, I’d say go for it but why bet on boom or bust when there are so many solid guys we could pick up at 24th, Guys that we need up front.

      My vote is Daniel Sprong as well.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Completely agree. I think that if we are going to draft a defenseman in the first round than it should be a Seabrook/Hjalmersson type of defenseman that is more physical and more defense first oriented to counter balance Reilly and Gardiner’s offensive tendancies.

        Though I also think we shouldn’t discriminate on taking a guy with size like Bittner who can score a lot just because management used to love big guys and got possibly burned picking guys like Biggs and Gauthier. Lets not forget that while LA didn’t make the playoffs this year, when they won the cup last year they were the heaviest team in the league.

        • How about you just draft the best player available?

          There’s so few situations when position and playing style should factor into drafting… situations that we likely haven’t even seen before.

          Have two “number one” centres under the age of 22, and it’s a coin toss between another top centre and top winger/defender? Sure, take your needs into consideration.

          Leafs have a lot of holes, defence included. Drafting Kylington, if he’s deemed to be the best available, would not hurt this organization in the least.

          As for the size thing, I think I speak for a lot of TLN’s staff in saying that we all love size, but we prioritize skill more. If he’s big and skilled? Sign me up. If you’re just trying to “get heavier”, that’s not something your should try to do on the draft stage.

  • CMpuck

    Ok, dumb logic but….. with so many Norris level and elite bluleiners taken in the 2nd round might it be prudent to stockpile quality defensemen over the next few years with those picks in hopes of a homerun? I’m not advocating this, just spit balling.

    I’d expect us to be trading for a lot of 2nd round picks over the next few years, if we can get multiple 2nds and mid round picks at the deadline to invest in rebuild our blueline while drafting high end forwards with our Tank Nation picks, I’d might go as far as to entertain Marner over Hanifin if the the organization took this approach and stuck to the plan.

    Really how often do we see a even a ROR in the 2nd round let alone an elite forward? How useless are picks like Biggs, Gauthier, Ross…?

    At least guys like Percy and Gunnerson offer value. Wasn’t Kaberle an 8th round pick? Blueliners can be found all over the draft. An abundance might produce a gem or two.

    A late 1st on Kylington, I’d be happy with that if he’s on the board.

    • Brooksterman

      I tend to agree on the defense. You see a lot more of Weber, Subban, Keith defenseman who are drafted outside the top half of the first round and end up being front line defenseman than you do the Bergeron and Lucic forwards.

      That being said when drafting forwards I tend to have the mentality that every team is weaker/less depth at one position than the others and ideally that position should be on the wing. Do the LA Kings model of Build depth at centre and on defense and aquire scoring wingers when you need them. Plus it’s much easier to teach a centre to play wing than it is to teach a winger to play centre. It’s why I’m hesitant on the Marner front as your basically getting another Nylander which is good in some circumstances but then look at next year and if we get Mathews then that’s another probable winger and so who will get these wingers the puck. Then they would have to go for drafting based on position and take a centre and those years maybe there are no high end centres. Unless the Leafs want Logan Brown from Windsor, who is supposed to be top 5 in next years’ draft, instead.

  • Gary Empey

    The fact that he is considered one of the best skaters in this years draft then, if he is available he has to be considered along with these three other defencemen.

    Consenus Rankings.

    10 Oliver Kylington D

    -22 Thomas Chabot D

    -23 Jakub Zboril D

    -24 Brandon Carlo D

    Then we will have to see if indeed he is a “home run” or “just another foul ball”

  • Jeremy Ian

    He missed the Sweden U20 team at the 2015 World Junior Tournament on account of an injury and has had a mixed year. This is one of the reasons why, I think, he’s been a bit of a yo yo in the draft rankings. He’s smart and skilled, but it’s been hard to track his recent development clearly.

    I’ll bet they’ve been scouting him hard.

    Doubt he’ll still be on the board at 24th, but if he is, it’s worth the risk.

  • FlareKnight

    I agree he absolutely should be a target. The Leafs want a home run at 24, that is the definition of swinging for it. Obviously he’s tumbled in the draft rankings, but I think it’s a gamble worth taking. Plus we do have a darn good Swedish scout, if he thinks this guy is worth taking then I’d be fine with it. If we passed on him then I’d accept that as well.