After two years of safe high picks, the Ottawa Senators can afford to select one of the riskiest first-round draft choices in 2015. In terms of skill, Kylington is definitely a top-10 talent, with smooth, offensive flair that is likened someone who we all know really well. There are question marks, though, and it's one of the reasons why most consensus rankings have Kylington all over the draft board.
Bob McKenzie's draft rankings on TSN are one of my favourites to look at, as it's generally a reliable indicator of where players will go on actual draft day compared to most lists due to it being a consensus based on opinions from many NHL scouts. To show how divided scouts are on Kylington, he went from no. 8 on McKenzie's preseason list, to no. 11 at the halfway point, before finishing at no. 24. Coincidentally, the International Scouting Services also ranked Kylington 24th in their Top 30 list.
To see this visually, @DTMAboutHeart has a wonderful tool that looks at the probability of a player being available at a certain pick, using aggregated rankings from McKenzie, ISS, McKeens, the Hockey News, and the NHL draft rankings. Here's what he has for Kylington:
If you click on the actual website, you can hover over the bars to get the probability, but I'll write them here as well. There looks to be a 99.8% chance that Kylington is available at 18th overall - a far cry of what industry experts were expecting going into the season - but only a 0.78% chance he's available at Ottawa's next pick, 42nd overall. This is a really wide spread compared to other puck-moving defensemen that may be in Ottawa's range according to other consensus rankings like Thomas Chabot (56.5% chance at 18) and Jakub Zboril (65.6% chance at 18). Forwards like Nick Merkley and Travis Konecny, who may be available at 18, look like they don't even have a shot at being taken past 28th overall.
Why is Kylington risky? Here's what some scouting agencies have to say about him:
[Note: if you'd like to have access to all of the AMAZING prospect profiles from McKeen's, Future Considerations, or the Red Line Report, please consider buying them as the writers put a lot of hard work into them - the link is provided]
Other awards: ranked 5th best skater
Entered the season as the highest ranked Swedish skater, and a potential top ten pick, after acquitting himself against older competition with Farjestad in the SHL as the youngest player in their history .. followed with an up and down performance in 2014-15, starting the season once again in the SHL, but ending up on loan to AIK in the Allvenskan (17- 4-3-7) in order to receive more ice time - finally finishing the season with the U20 team in Farjestad (10-4-3-7) .. represented Sweden at the U18 World Junior championships (5-0-2-2) but missed the U20 World Juniors after injuring himself in a pre-season game - taking some time to round back into form.. a remarkably agile skater, dancing around the ice and opponents .. transitions rapidly from defence to offence with his mobility allowing him to jump into the rush .. more of a straight line skater, his feet are quick yet contain excessive footwork in transitioning back to front - making him vulnerable to outside attack .. reliant on his skating gifts to cover up on defence, not being overly physical or aggressive .. will try to do too much and carry the puck more than necessary .. defensive decision making comes in to question and is guilty of overworking situations and taking aggressive defensive angles and over-committing to the puckcarrier .. it is clear he wants to be a difference maker, but should concentrate on a simpler game if he is to continue to develop .. his silky smooth, skating stride sets him apart and two years of playing against men in Sweden provides more experience than most at his age .. too many questions to be answered about his game reading ability and instincts to be certain he will develop into a top offensive weapon from the back end.
Future Considerations (28th)
Ranked 2nd best skater, top offensive defenseman
STRENGTHS: Kylington is an offensive-minded defenseman who is viewed by many as the true wildcard of the draft. He 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. Kylington makes excellent offensive zone reads and is hard to defend from the point as he disguises his intentions well. Skating is exceptionally smooth and he can pick up speed or change direction in a flash. He is likely one of or the even the best skater in the entire draft. 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 good defensively, using his stick and good awareness to read and react to plays unfolding. He has the foot speed to close gaps and force plays away from the net and into a position where he can force a turnover. He denies all passing options that are available. Will use his body to muscle the man off the puck, but won't step up to crush him with a check; a simple rubbing out of the man seems to do the trick in his mind. He isn't a very big or physical defender, but doesn't get manhandled in the corners or in front of his net. Takes control in possession with his quick hands and feet that he can change the speed of to meet the conditions; Kylington will rush the puck and is a threat to watch out for whenever he touches the puck. The comparisons that have been floated out there include fellow countrymen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Erik Karlsson; although, he has a ways to go to reach those lofty comparisons. If he continues to develop he could be a premier player in the NHL for years to come.
WEAKNESSES: Can be an enigma at times, one shift a highly skilled playmaker and the next a complete letdown that looks disinterested or confused. He kind of gives off a, "I'll do it myself," vibe at times. The poise and calm nature with the puck can have its draw back as well, as he can turn the puck over at some costly moments in the offensive zone. Needs to be careful that he doesn't get too comfortable when rushing the puck or holding it in the offensive zone. He never seems to recognize that he is also the last line of defense but instead is always thinking offense. Needs to find a balance between the two.
SCOUTS QUOTE: "He is a high risk/high reward player who takes chances but is able to create more offense than he allows. His lateral agility and overall mobility is excellent, but he has fallen off this season as there are just too many times he has looked like a liability on the ice. Has the ability to make us scratch our heads in a few years as to why he dropped so low."
NHL POTENTIAL: Top-Four Offensive Defenseman
Red Line Report (31st)
Other wards: best "pure" skater
Easily the draft's biggest wildcard. His immense, Top 5 talent is not in question, but has taken a gigantic step backward and we can't for the life of us figure out what the hell is going on inside his head most of the time. For all his stupendous puck skills, seems either incapable — or worse yet, simply unwilling — to make the simple, correct play with the puck that is called for in 90% of game situations. Prefers to contort himself into spasms looking for - and trying - the impossibly flashy play that often winds up as a brutal turnover. Undoubtedly the best pure skater in the draft with elite, dynamic speed, agility, and lightning acceleration that are currently rivaled in the NHL only by Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban. Undisciplined, irresponsible decision-maker - gambles with the puck constantly even when he's last player back. Chases the puck around defensive zone, wandering out of position constantly.
Projection: Offensively productive 2nd pair d-man runs the PP.
Style compares to: Erik Karlsson, minus the great instincts
Arguably one of the very best skaters in the draft, Oliver dances on his blades with equally high-end speed, quickness and agility and makes it look incredibly effortless. His confidence seemed to falter at times and affect his productivity but a turnaround in this could eventually see him, being one of the draft's best defencemen.
Basically, Kylington is a world-class skater with fantastic puck skills and deception in the offensive zone. Where his game seems to lack is in his defensive hockey sense - making the right read at the right time - and taking on a "do it all himself" attitude when he begins to get stymied. To me, this sounds very much like the weaknesses of most offensive defensemen, and what many considered Karlsson's weaknesses when he first entered the league. What better mentor for Kylington than a fellow Swede who went through what he went through seven years prior?
It's a risk, for sure. Is it worth it? We at Silver Seven think so.
Take a look at the date of that highlight video. It's from last year, commonly called a prospect's draft -1 year, and was where a lot of the hype on Kylington came from. He was the first 16 year old defenseman to play a full season in the SHL since Calle Johansen in 1983-84. There's been a lot of good Swedish defensemen to cross the pond since then, so a feat like that says something, especially when you consider the following (from the great money puck over at Canucks Army):
In theory, the mere fact that a 17 year old (or 16 year old for that matter) playing a full-time role against men in one of the world's toughest leagues should be a hint that they might be a pretty darn good player. The Swedish club system means that a player can move up from the junior league club in the SuperElit, to Allsvenskan (SHL2), to the elite league (SHL), assuming they have the ability to beat out their older, more experienced competition for the job.
Typically, even if they do make it to the SHL they almost always play limited minutes, which affects the comparability of points as compared to their North American draft peers. For example, William Nylander played only 13 minutes a game in the SHL last year, which provides important context to the 7 points he scored in 22 games.
With all the talk of his "rough" year due to being transferred between three teams in search of playing time, Kylington had the most points of ALL U18 players in the Allsvenskan (despite only playing 17 games) and reportedly went through agent and family troubles. Uniquely, Kylington's ethnicity (half Eritrean, half Swedish) may also be a potential reason why some scouts/analysts are quick to jump to the "attitude" problem concerns, like most hockey players of colour. Added onto Kylington's impressive resume, you can see why I'm not that worried. Some are quick to point out that he hasn't excelled on the international stage, but it's also important to keep in mind that he was injured right before this year's U20 World Championships.
Okay, so we get it, Kylington is unique with very few comparables. Is there any data on whether U18 SHL D are successful in the NHL? Over at Canucks Army, Money puck looked at U18 SHLers who eventually went on to make the NHL as a successful draft pick - either a current player or a player who has played 200+ NHL games. He found that since 1975-76, 10 of the 29 U18 SHL defensemen (34% of them) went on to become a 'successful' NHLer. When adding on a stipulation of U18 SHL D who have scored greater than 0.09 PPG, the success rate increased to 50% (8 in 16). That may not sound like a lot, but this is higher than the success rate for CHL defensemen who put up a 0.75+ PPG in their draft year. That list for this year includes: Vande Sompel, Andersson, Dunn (OHL); J. Roy, Carrier, Leveille, Meloche, Zboril (QMJHL); Provorov, Pilon, Juulsen (WHL).
The bottom line? Kylington has a reasonable chance of success. For a team like Ottawa with a young core and a need for drafting game-breaking talent due to a) their inability to sign expensive free agents and b) current defense prospects, Kylington should be right up their alley. What better than to have another silky smooth offensive defenseman to be mentored by the best Swedish defenseman currently in the NHL, no?