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…
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.
[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.
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.