The Swedish U18 national team is off to a decent start at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup after beating Slovakia and falling to Canada. Heading into the final game of group play, star defenceman Oliver Kylington, a highly touted prospect for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, feels Sweden has a good chance of going far in the tournament.
”It’s all in our hands,” he said right before a team dinner following the 5-1 loss to Canada earlier in the day. ”If we play like we did for two periods against Canada and the whole game versus Slovakia, I feel we have a really good chance.”
Kylington scored once in the 6-1 win over Slovakia, but was held off the score sheet in the second game.
“To be honest, they were the better team today and played a classic Canadian physical game,” he explained. “Some of our guys were maybe not used to that. But if we end up facing them again, I feel we can win. I was really only in the third period that they pulled away from us.”
For Kylington, who plays for Farjestad Karlstad in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), this season is sure to be an exciting one. After arriving in with a bang as he became the youngest player ever to score a goal in the SHL last year and suiting up for 32 league games and 12 playoff contests, he is looking at a bigger role with his club team this year and also – increased attention from scouts, agents and other hockey people.
“I don’t think about who might be in the stands,” the mobile two-way defenceman explained. “I feel that the way I play has gone well, so that’s what I’ll continue to focus on.”
Always eager to learn and develop, he has gotten valuable advice from his Farjestad teammates, such as team captain Rickard Wallin and defenceman Magnus Nygren, how played for Tre Kronor at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship and returned to Sweden in the past season after a short stint in North America.
“They have told me a lot about what it’s like to play in North America and what’s ahead, both on the ice and off the ice,” he said. “I also played in the same pairing as Nygren for a while, after he returned.“
A natural talent with a lot of playmaking ability, the Stockholm-born Kylington was also a promising football player as a child. He opted for hockey when he was 11 years old, after suffering a pulled groin just before the Gothia Cup, a massive youth football tournament in Gothenburg that gathers 1,600 teams from 80 nations.
“I was just about to shoot the ball, but pressed to hard and injured myself. After that, I made sure that I got the rest I needed to be ready for the hockey season.
“And to be honest, I always thought hockey was a bit more fun even though I enjoyed the football and still play with friends at times.”
The choice of sport has turned out nicely for Kylington, who doesn’t come from what one would describe as a typical hockey background. His mother is from Eritrea, not yet known for their hockey. His dad was involved in sports, but his sport was handball, where he played at a high domestic level.
“I also have a kid brother and a couple of cousins who are involved in sports like basketball, but not necessarily at the elite level, so I don’t think we’re the typical hockey family.”
But on the Swedish U18 national team he comes equipped with the most senior league experience.
“It’s hard to explain how it helps since it’s a totally different type of game in junior hockey,” said Kylington. “You have to be a lot more patient at the senior level and make sure that you don’t commit defensive errors. It helps having played that type of game also.
“I always try to learn new things as I go along.”
Group A in Breclav (CZE): Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, USA
Group B in Piestany (SVK): Slovakia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland
Schedule & Scores:
Monday, 11 August 2014
In Piestany (14:00): Switzerland vs. Canada 1-5
In Breclav (15:30): Finland vs. Russia 5-2
In Piestany (17:30): Slovakia vs. Sweden 1-6
In Breclav (19:00): Czech Republic vs. USA 4-2
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
In Piestany (14:00): Canada vs. Sweden 5-1
In Breclav (15:30): Russia vs. USA 4-7
In Piestany (17:30): Slovakia vs. Switzerland 1-3
In Breclav (19:00): Czech Republic vs. Finland 4-3
Wednesday, 13 August 2014
In Piestany (14:00): Sweden vs. Switzerland
In Breclav (15:30): USA vs. Finland
In Piestany (17:30): Slovakia vs. Canada
In Breclav (19:00): Czech Republic vs. Russia
Friday, 15 August 2014
7th-place game in Piestany (14:00): TBD
5th-place game in Breclav (15:30): TBD
Semi-final in Piestany (17:30): TBD
Semi-final in Breclav (19:00): TBD
Saturday, 16 August 2014
Bronze medal game
Gold medal game