Oscar Klefbom: A Reason To Smile

One of the best stories to come out of another lost Oiler
season was the emergence of Oscar Klefbom. The former 19th Overall
pick from the 2011 Draft started the year in the AHL having played just a
smattering of games for the Oilers in 2013-2014. His season may have begun in
the AHL but when the last whistle sounded he was arguably at the top of the team’s
Defensive Depth chart.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Klefbom has been a fast learner his entire career and I didn’t
give that ability to learn and adjust enough credit. Indeed he has been very
resilient. He lost almost an entire year after an injury limited his 2012-2013
season to just 11 games. That’s the kind of thing that could have derailed the
young man’s career. I was certainly worried about the young blueliner virtually
losing an entire developmental year.

Defensemen, and all kids really, need to play games and
there’s no substitute for minutes played. But this kid was playing the
Professional game from the time he was 17 years old and that speaks to his
ability. When he came to the AHL he started slow, working his way up from the 3rd
pairing until he earned NHL time that very year. He was already working on an accelerated
timeline of progression.

The one thing he had never really done is add a healthy
amount of offense. Then he started just his 2nd AHL season. He
played only 9 games for the Barons this past season, picking up 8 points in
that time. He had effectively gone from 3rd pairing AHL player to
undeniable NHL talent in just a year in North America.

It wasn’t all at once. He took a little time, but he
eventually took over top pairing minutes. Here is his average ice time broken
down month by month.

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

March

April

17:17 

22:39 

19:41 

23:21 

23:04 

23:10

 

His number of games played was split pretty evenly from his first
three months to his last 3 months but by his final 3 months he was logging more
than 23 minutes a night and that’s pretty incredible. Only 34 Defensemen in the
entire NHL averaged 23 minutes a night or more over the course of the entire
year. In fact, Oscar Klefbom averaged more Ice Time per game than every NHL
Rookie this past year.

That fact that he did that without a massive Power Play push
makes it even more impressive. Klefbom played almost a full minute more per
game at Even Strength than then the 2nd placed Rookie. Actually,
Oscar Klefbom had the 15th highest Time On Ice per Game at Even
Strength. Period. Not just for Rookies. I mean the 15th most for the
entire NHL.

The Oilers didn’t just throw Klefbom to the wolves in the
sense that they gave him and his defensive partner the highest percentage of
Offensive Zone starts among blueliners. He had plenty of sugar time with RNH
and Eberle on the good side of the rink. That doesn’t mean it was easy to play
huge minutes as a Rookie, but at least they didn’t drown him in Defensive
Starts. We don’t know what the roster will look like next year or how Todd
McLellan will run this particular horse.

WHERE DOES THIS SEASON BELONG?

What we do know is that Oscar Klefbom’s last season put him
in pretty good company. There were just 6 other players who had similar seasons
over the last 10 years. Where a 21 year old Defenseman who was playing in his 1st
or 2nd season and produced as much offensively (between 0.3 and 0.4
points per game) as Klefbom the company is pretty good. It’s just:

Matt Niskanen 2007-2008: He of the 2nd most
minutes per game in the Playoffs for the Washington Capitals this year.

Jake Gardiner 2011-2012: Once upon a time a Maple Leaf Golden
child who is still a fancy stats leader on that team.

Travis Hamonic 2011-2012: Lead the Islanders in TOI/G this
past year.

Kris Russell 2008-2009: Almost 24 minutes a night for the
godless Flames.

Alexandre Picard 2006-2007: Suh-WING an-a-miss

Roman Josi 2011-2012: Nashville’s Best Defenseman. Ahem.

Oscar Klefbom 2014-2015: Edmonton’s _______ Defenseman in
2015-2016.

klef abs

What we’re getting at is that this Klefbom kid just might be
a reason to smile.

He followed up this year with a good showing at the World
Championships playing for Sweden. His NHL coach has been replaced. His NHL GM
has been replaced. The mandate is clearly to upgrade the Defense but Klefbom isn’t
going to be a victim of this directive. He’s going to be a beneficiary. If
Chiarelli can acquire a veteran and impactful RHD to play with Oscar Klefbom
next season then what can we expect from him?

He has outperformed expectations every year. He’s been a regular
in the SHL since he was High School age. He bounced back from a lost season as
if it was nothing. He transitioned from the bottom pairing in the AHL to bottom
pairing of the NHL in his first North American season. He went from the bottom
pair to the top in 60 games as a Rookie. Can we know what the limits are on
this 21 year old kid?

I don’t think we can. And that makes me smile.

        • bradleypi

          MM isn’t a bust yet, but inferring that the reason he’s in the minors because Mact doesn’t like him is ridiculous. He wasn’t very good at hockey last year and I certainly hope he is planning to work his arse off this summer because if he comes to camp out of shape again his next stop will be the echl. I know oilersnation loves the guy for reasons beyond me but he’s got a lot of work to do to bd an everyday nhl’er

          • bradleypi

            Of course it’s not ok but nikitin makes 4.5 mill. You can’t healthy scratch a guy making that kinda dollars. Or send him to the minors. Oilersnation really needs to think about the business side of hockey for once and not about playing favorites. Marincin barely held onto a job with the barons yet you think he should have been gifted a job on thd big club? Not a chance

          • Oilerchild77

            Why is it ridiculous? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that the only reason J. Schultz is getting top pairing minutes is because MacT likes him. Remember, Schultz is a “potential Norris trophy winner” according to MacT. Now THAT’S ridiculous. My point here is that MacT was clearly playing favorites, and MM wasn’t one of them.

      • pkam

        I like Marincin and Schultz, but I am not as excited in them as Klefbom. I like Klefbom since his call up late in 2013-14. He outplayed Marincin even though Marincin had about 30 more NHL games than him. I saw moments of panic in Marincin when he was under pressure, which is very normal for a rookie, but not in Klefbom. He was so calm like a veteran with less than a dozen of NHL games.

        The only concern I have with Klefbom is his health. This 19th overall can turn out to be another great pick by MacGregor (the other one of course is Eberle) if he can stay healthy.

        • Lofty

          Hendersons argument was that defenseman don’t progress in straight lines.

          I don’t think Marincin was too great last year but he was pretty good relative to the rest of the rear guards 2 years ago.

          I agree Klefbom was much better this year. But as it’s been said D don’t develop in straight lines. Marincin could outplay Klefbom next year and that would be fine for both players. They’re still breaking in they’re not even close to 30 years old.

    • Amazing to see when you also throw in the early injury that ended his one season way early. I thought for sure his development would be delayed a bit because of that. It was like he didn’t miss a beat. Glad to see him working out.

  • Thumby

    One of the few Oilers defence who I saw consistently break up the cycle last year. Watch out this year with another summer of training under his belt. We have Thor on our team!

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I don’t know if you can say Klefbom is great because the Oil played him FAR too much last year for a player of his experience level. But you CAN say he’s great because of all the other stuff: constant improvement, tilts the ice, natural athlete, pretty. He and Nurse will be pillars for this team for a long, long time. Also: Hall and Yak.

  • YFC Prez

    So much potential for greatness on that blue line. Nurse Klefbom Marincin and even Schultz.

    A couple solid vets is crucial this season. They can all be great, but stop asking them to do it on their own.

  • bradleypi

    I completely forgot that he lost a year due to an injury. I’ve had high hopes for this kid since they drafted him. Here’s to Oscar and his continued development!!

  • Dirtski

    Luckily the chances Chiarelli were to mac-t petry away this player are slim. Add to that McMclellan’s history and quoted importance of pairing vets with rookies, things look promising. Another reason to be pumped about the coming season – this is one of the first years I want to skip summer so hockey starts sooner.

  • Good article!

    A great thing I’ve noticed in every Klefbom interview is just how confident he is in himself. Its as if he knows he’s already an elite NHL defender and he just has to show everyone what he can do. This man has talent you cant measure.

    You can see confidence in his play too, especially when standing up forwards at the offensive blue line. He always has calm feet, and rarely lets the puck or player by him.

    Very excited for his season

  • bradleypi

    I like klefblom a lot but he is still a prospect. If he’s playing any higher than thd 3rd pairing the Oilers are gonna be in for a long season. PC needs to find a veteran minute eater for the top 4. And nikitin needs to earn the contract Mact gifted him. My ideal d pairings would be

    1 ??-jultz
    2 nikitin-fayne
    3 klefblom-ference

    That’s a beauty 3rd pairing imo. Klef gets to play with a vet and can push the offence knowing Ferknuckle will be backing him up

      • bradleypi

        Lol you’re crazy because the reason the oil sucked last year is precisely because klefblom was their best dman. He’s not ready for top pairing minutes yet. And if you think he is then I’m glad you’re not coaching the team

    • Harry2

      Are you drunk!?

      Those were the exact same pairings as this past season. Klefbom can pkay on my top pairing all next season but he should be flanked by either Burns or Franson.

      Hes proven himself beyond the third pair. Thats a given.

        • Harry2

          You know more about hockey and your solution to fix the defence is to run 5 of the same defencemen as they did last year?

          Get a clue. Edm needs 2 new top 4 defencemen

          • bradleypi

            Lol thanks for the tip captain obvious. If it was up to me there would be 3 new dmen on the team but right now these are the guys the Oilers have under contract. And hence why I left a question mark on jultz’ left side. Why don’t you tell us how you would deploy the d corps next year.

          • Harry2

            Buyout Nikitin. Trade Schultz. Trade #16, #33 and Marincin or Schultz for Burns. Sign Franson.

            Burns/Klef, Nurse/Franson, Ference/Fayne

            Substitute Burns and/or Franson for others if they can’t be had.

            Thats what I would TRY and do.

          • Oilers89

            I like that and have had similar thoughts. Could you imagine if it was Schultz in the above deal and you could have Marincin-Fayne as your third pair? I would be overjoyed!

  • YakCity1039

    Pumped this guy is developing. I really like that him and nurse are not the same style of player. I hope his offence progresses as well. The oilers need an NHL right side get to play with klefbom. Sea room is the name I really want. Though Dan Boyle might not be the worst choice.

  • Marincin, by no means, is imploding!! He’s just a rookie whose confidence is shaken by how the Oiler’s handling him…. the Oiler’s brass somehow lost interest in the kid, sent him back to OKC for reasons unbeknown by anyone! And when he was recalled, he became a different person, he’s lost, who wouldn’t be? But, when Todd Nelson showed confidence in him, he started to slowly turn things around, he’s still young, he’s not a lost cause yet! he’s one who should be on the protective list of the Oil!!!

  • bradleypi

    At the right price, I hope we find KBomb the right mentor next year. Ference, NN, Jultzz just wasting his development. Imagine him with N Hjalmarsson,M Staal, or even ZChara (for 2 years?) Oilers will have a BEAST on their D!

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    It is evident that MM’S value is at a all time high. And with a healthy nikitin we can comfortably trade MM.

    With a very deep draft it would be in the best interest of the copper and blue to flip MM for a 2,3 and 7th rounder