Calgary Flames fans in the #FreeKylington Fan Club – it’s happening. Oliver Kylington will be making his regular-season debut alongside veteran Chris Tanev.
It also appears Nikita Zadorov will sit out.
Kylington is a smooth-skating and offensively talented young player looking to carve out a regular role. He played a lot in the preseason and started strong, but didn’t earn head coach Darryl Sutter’s trust for the regular season and home openers.
A very vocal group of Flames fans can’t fathom how the youngster with the puck-moving upside isn’t getting as much of a chance in the lineup as a bigger, less mobile guy like Zadorov, who has made a significant number of errors both in the preseason and through the first two games.
Sutter also wants more from Zadorov – which is why it seems he’s going to be watching from above in Detroit Thursday night. The Flames invested in the 6-foot-6 defender with a $3.75-million deal for this season after sending a third-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks to bring him over.
Sutter needs someone to step up as Tanev’s partner
Kylington is filling in with Tanev, and Sutter sees that as a prime position on his blueline. He has big expectations for the player who pairs up with the veteran.
“Shilly (Kylington) had a good start to training camp then he didn’t have a very good finish,” Sutter said Thursday after the morning skate.
“That’s a search and destroy position there. We need somebody to step up. Those guys that everybody talks about that are popular or big or whatever they are, they’ve got to be better players. Pretty simple. You get to play with Chris Tanev, you should step up to the plate – somebody has to.”
The 31-year-old Tanev embodies what Sutter wants to see from a defender. Smart decision-making and a calming presence on the back end.
“He thinks the game really well,” Sutter said. “He utilizes his partner really well. He’s a real coachable guy and he plays a real honest game, doesn’t take penalties. It’s what you’re looking for in a veteran.”
Projected Calgary Flames lineup