Oscar Klefbom “the best player on the ice” in Oklahoma City Barons win

Jonathan Willis
January 18 2014 10:51PM

As he has far too often since the Edmonton Oilers drafted him, Oscar Klefbom spent time on the shelf this month due to injury. The coaching staff worried that the significant progress he’d made over the season might be set back, but judging by his play since his return there was no need for fear.

I thought Klefbom looked pretty decent in his first game back on Friday, though he wasn’t perfect; he had a couple of turnovers (one off a hard hit) but showed flashes of exceptional talent too. One shift in the third period on Friday where he held the blue line and dealt a punishing hit really stood out, but it was little things like his ability to skate the puck out of trouble in a hurry and his strength in puck battles that mattered more. Still, as we’ve noted, those were interspersed with some poorer plays.

He was significantly better on Saturday, showing the same ability to skate and move the puck and that same strength in the defensive zone. He was more solid defensively though, even bailing out David Musil at one point when his partner got into trouble. So I knew the answer was probably going to be ‘yes’ when I asked Barons coach Todd Nelson if he was happy with Klefbom’s play. What surprised me though was how enthusiastic Nelson was in endorsing the player.

“Absolutely,” the Barons coach said. “I thought Oscar tonight was probably the best player on the ice, or one of the best.”

According to the coach, it’s just the latest bit of good news in an encouraging run.

“Last night he was excellent,” Nelson added. “You’re always worried about a guy coming back off injury, if he can get back to the level he was at just before he was hurt. He played three good games before he got injured, but tonight he was exceptional. Hopefully that continues and he has that consistency because he was a horse out there. I talked to Gerry and we both agreed ‘let’s put him out there as much as we can, because he’s playing so well and he’s a horse and he can handle it.’”

How much ice-time did he get?

“I’m sure he got at least 20 minutes. When he plays like that if we’re not giving him at least 20 minutes than we’re not doing our job right.”

Why This Is Surprising

In my experience Nelson’s generally supportive but understated in describing his players. Several times this year he’s acknowledged the struggles and weaknesses of certain individuals, even if he does take pains to stress what they’re doing well right after. He isn’t afraid to praise a guy who is doing well, but in this case his clear enthusiasm for Klefbom’s work stood out as unique.

Klefbom has had struggles this year, but it does seem like he’s turned a corner. No other player on the blue line, or even on the team for that matter, has a wider gap between where he was at the start of the year and how he’s played the last few games. Taylor Fedun has been excellent throughout, Martin Marincin has made progress and Martin Gernat and David Musil have both evolved, but only with Klefbom have the strides been so large.

Now the trick is consistency, as Nelson indicated. Klefbom has had strong games, even several of them consecutively, at other points in the season, but they haven’t lasted. If this one does, the Oilers are going to have little choice but to give Klefbom his first taste of NHL action.

It's not the only choice the team is going to be forced to make. Between Klefbom and Marincin and Fedun and Darnell Nurse, there are a lot of rookies vying for a spot on next year's team. There simply isn't room for all of them.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Aitch
January 19 2014, 11:38AM
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Venom... Klefbom's already bringing out a lot of it, eh?

I don't have access to the Staples' articles, but didn't MacT say the plan was to bring Klefbom up after the Olympics? (Someone with access, please check it out.) If that's right, I've always assumed that "after the Olympics" could be stretched out to the trade deadline when Nultz could be traded for anything other than another live NHL dman.

Whether or not that's the right thing to do, I don't know. I think the only time I've seen him play was a world juniors game. But it can never hurt to give the guy a taste of it. If his confidence is so fragile that abad couple of games ruins him, he's not the right player anyhow.

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#52 Sketchy
January 19 2014, 12:47PM
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Who cares anymore?? Lets play the entire barons defence. I'd find it hard to believe they'd suck anymore than the current group

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#53 Jay
January 19 2014, 12:48PM
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Can't wait til the jersey toss game against Vancouver

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#54 Oliveoiler
January 19 2014, 04:51PM
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It's amusing and interesting to read the comments from all of us armchair coaches/GMs. I include myself in this group. I am an Oilers' addict, I have been devastated by our awful team over the last few years - but this year it's been rock bottom. I have really toughened up now. I can't get stressed, I can't sit and cry, all I can do is make light of things and hope to God things improve next season. I watch the games on mute - play Scrabble while catching glimpses of the game. I expect a loss, and get not too excited with a win, cos I know we'll lose the next one. I do get excited when we make a transaction, but down again when it's not a D man.

My kids say that the Oilers are manic-depressive, up and down all the time. They try and convince me to change allegiance - I tell them that you don't cast someone aside because they are bipolar. So, I will nurse my team through yet another lousy season, and dream of better times. So excuse me if I make a comment detrimental to the team, it's not that I don't still care, it's just that I have become bipolar too........ right now I'm down - AGAIN. And when I do make a comical put down of my team, I remember being told as a kid that it's better to laugh than cry. Man I'm sick and tired of this c**p.

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#55 PaperDesigner
January 19 2014, 10:06PM
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So is this just a case of a player who already had a strong pro-level game, but with the changes that had to be made to North America, wasn't able to play his game instinctively until those adjustments were made?

It might explain why a player would make such great strides so quickly.

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#56 Tay C
January 19 2014, 10:35PM
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Let's hope there isn't room for them at all, at least.

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