I want to start out this piece by acknowledging that it’s purely speculative and that I have no real information on this whatsoever. It is merely a combination of circumstances and my opinion on it.
When Oliver Kylington was drafted by the Calgary Flames with the 60th overall pick in the 2015 draft, many were celebrating what seemed to be a steal by Brad Treliving. He had been projected in some draft boards to be a first round pick, so grabbing him late in the 2nd seemed like a solid move.
For the most part it has been a decent move, Kylington has dressed in 87 games for the Flames with only nine players drafted after him having dressed for more. Kylington has always been known more so for his flashy offensive potential, and that showed in 2017-18 when he had 35 points in 62 games. He split last year between the Flames and Stockton and has essentially been in Calgary all of this year save for a quick three game weekend with the Heat.
It looks like his developed may have slowed this year though with him only putting up 7 points in 48 games compared to 8 points in 38 games last year. Points aren’t always a great indication for a defenseman, but for a guy who’s offensive upside has been highly touted, you’d hope to at least see some sort of improvement. This also doesn’t mention his defensive game which has been passable at best for most of the season. Kylington also hasn’t really seen his role grow at all over the season, still hovering in the mid-to-low teens in terms of ice time each night.
As you can see above, both of his basic and underlying numbers haven’t really shown any sort of improvement this season. For comparison here is Rasmus Andersson:
As a result of the Flames blueline being depleted with injuries to Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic, it wasn’t overly surprising when the Flames made a deadline acquisition of Derek Forbort to bolster the bottom pairing. However what was surprising was the acquisition of Erik Gustaffsson a few minutes later, as the Flames added two defensemen to the roster.
Sure part of it was to cover the injuries, but another angle on these trades was that the Flames really don’t seem to have a lot of faith in Kylington as this was the second straight year they acquired a depth defenseman who pushed him out of the lineup.
Kylington has not played in any of the five games since the trade deadline, and is at best seventh on the Flames depth chart right now and would fall to eighth when Travis Hamonic returned. Of course a lot of that could change this summer with Hamonic, Gustafsson, Forbort, and T.J. Brodie all hitting the market as UFA’s. However that might not actually mean much as management showed that they had a preference of spending assets rather than handing him more responsibility for two years in a row.
This all seems to lead back to what the organization’s plan is for Kylington going forward.
He wasn’t sent down to Stockton at the deadline which means he’s ineligible for the AHL Playoffs as the Heat look to make a run, but he also doesn’t seem to be in the conversation on getting NHL ice time barring injury.
EDIT: Kylington was papered down to Stockton on deadline day so he is potentially eligible to play for the Heat in the playoffs, which makes more sense than being in the press box on Hamonic’s return.
Kylington is a pending RFA and will likely be quite cheap to bring back on a short term deal. Another option for him is that he becomes a trade chip if the Flames look to improve at the draft. He is still a highly touted prospect and could be a good part of fetching the Flames a proven NHLer from a rebuilding club. A lot of where the team decides to go with him may come down to how negotiations are moving with the club’s other pending free agents.
Finally, your last option for where his future may end up is that the Flames bring him back for next season, and then expose him in the 2021 expansion draft, hoping Seattle might go for youth and potential ahead of taking an older more established NHLer off the team. It seems that Calgary is going to lose a good player no matter what, so perhaps losing Kylington might actually make more sense. Of course it would be up to Seattle to take him. Chances are he’ll be exposed even if the Flames start to look more favorably on him as Noah Hanifin, Juuso Valimaki (if he plays this year and has to be protected) and Rasmus Andersson all seem more important to keep, not even including Mark Giordano as well.
One thing seems to be abundantly clear, and that is the Flames don’t trust Kylington right now to take on an increased role. That could change over time, but with the defensive core reshaping over this summer, he might not have the time to change their minds. His situation will be an interesting one to watch as the season wraps up and we head into the summer.
by Michael MacGillivray