It is hard to find a person to who doesn’t think that that Oscar Klefbom is a very good prospect to play in the NHL. Most seem to think he is the best prospect the Oilers have in their system currently not playing in the NHL. There is no doubt the Oilers have a need for top end defenceman but how soon should they find out if Oscar is the guy to do that?
Let’s start with what we know for sure. Oscar missed the whole season last year except for ten games or so. He had surgery to fix his shoulder injury. By all reports he has had a good rehab time and is feeling strong and ready to go. So we know he is healthy and ready to play this season.
We know he grew up playing in Sweden. I have firsthand knowledge with the way the Swedes develop their players. It is very organized with solid coaching both on and off the ice.
I was there during the World Championships and I spoke to many Swedish coaches. The approach taken by the whole country is to build good young talented players. There are many camps for all different abilities throughout the country. I got the impression they don’t want to overlook late bloomers (as a side note are we doing the same here in Canada?)
When Swedish players come over to North America I find the bulk of them to be good professionals. They are mature because they left home quite early to go and play in one of the top two hockey leagues there. Instead of having billets like junior aged players here, the young Swedes move into their own places given to them by the teams they play for. Imagine the responsibility of living on your own at seventeen or eighteen? Most of you could barely make yourself breakfast.
They are mature as men and also as players. I always found them to be in good shape and have a pretty good understanding of the way to play hockey, an overall game. They understand the value of working out and commit to it.
I expect Oscar to be all of these things to go along with the talent he possesses. We also know he missed basically the whole season last year. Call me old school but players develop by playing. I do not believe they can develop by watching. Maybe as they get older a night or two in the press box helps but when young, they need the ice time and games.
For this reason I think it is a no brainer for Oscar to start in the minors with the Barons. Let him adjust to the game of hockey in the smaller rink not under the bright lights of the NHL and the Edmonton Oiler faithful. The game happens a lot quicker because of the lack of space.
I would expect him to play in all situations down there, with lots of minutes. He doesn’t have to stay down there the whole year. If he plays well bring him up for a taste of the NHL. I have never heard of a hockey player’s career being derailed because he spent some time in the AHL when he could have been in the NHL.
I think time in the AHL is very good for young players. It gives them a sense of what it could be like if they don’t make the NHL. Riding the buses all over North America, less pay and crazy schedules definitely gave me a little more motivation and understanding about how good the life in the NHL is compared with the AHL.
I think the Nashville Predators are one of the top teams in the NHL when it comes to developing d-men. They have developed two of the top d-men currently in the league, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. They both played in the AHL. I looked at the roster they had in Nashville and I am sure both could have started in the NHL. The Preds made the decision to send them to the AHL.
Both Suter and Weber put up very good numbers in the AHL while there which you would expect. Their confidence grew. They were taught how to play the game in the minors and carried that into the NHL.
I don’t know if Oscar will become either one of those two players but if they can play in the minors and have success why can’t Oscar? In my mind there is no reason for him to start in the NHL. The Oilers have lots of depth at the position, let Oscar find his way a solid NHL career at his own pace.