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Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Countdown to Season: Question #3 and Klefbom

Oscar Klefbom played the most minutes of any Oilers skater in 2016/2017. He had a career year in every aspect.

He was healthy for an entire season for the first time in his career, dressing in all 82 games.

He set career highs in goals, assists and points, scoring 12-26-38, and did it all while facing many of the NHL’s best forwards and defenders.

So what should we expect from Klefbom this season?

If he had a carbon copy of last season, I’d guess Oilersnation and the Oilers would be happy, but I do believe there is still room for Klefbom to improve.

Staying healthy was huge for his psyche. He and I spoke about it just before the playoffs, and while he felt the infection in 2015/2016 was just bad luck, he did say it was important to know he could play an entire season. Now he’s done it, and while most injuries aren’t preventable, it is a good sign for any player with previous injuries to skate through an entire season without missing any significant time.

Klefbom is still very young for an NHL defender. His $4.167 million cap hit places him as the 69th highest paid defender in the NHL, and only four players making more are younger than Klefbom.

Aaron Ekblad is 21 with a $7.5 million cap hit until June of 2025. Hampus Lindholm is 23 with a $5.205 million cap hit until June of 2022, while Seth Jones and Rasmus Ristolainen each carry a $5.4 million cap hit and both turn 23 in October.

Klefbom turned 24 in July and is under contract until June of 2023. He has one of the best value contracts in the NHL, and as he develops that deal will only look better.

Here’s where he ranked among D-men last season:

33rd in points with 38.
18th in goals with 12.
Ninth in shots on goal with 201
39th in TOI/game (time on ice) at 22:22.
22nd in overall TOI at 1834:21
28th in PP TOI at 207:02 ( 2:31/game)
26th in EV TOI at 1489:49 (18:10/game)

His most impressive stat was his discipline. He only took three minor penalties all season, which was 235th among NHL defenders and 662 overall among skaters.

He played the 22nd most minutes in the NHL, mostly against the other team’s top forwards and defenders, but he was only 662nd in minor penalties taken. Impressive.

Klefbom isn’t overly physical, but I don’t recall him shying away from contract or losing too many battles because he wasn’t aggressive. He uses his size and strength and takes good angles to avoid penalties. And it wasn’t just a one-year anomaly. In his first 107 NHL games prior to last season, he only had five minor penalties. In 189 career games he has taken eight minor penalties.

Expecting him to stay out of the box in 2017/2018 won’t be expecting much.

Where can he improve?

Mandatory Photo Credit: Walter Tychnowicz/USA TODAY Sports

He’s only played 201 games, including playoffs, so he still has lots of room to grow.

I believe he has more offensive potential 5×5. He was 54th in EV scoring among defenders last year, and he was 20th in PP scoring. He started to use his above average slapshot more last season and I think we will see him find more opportunities to use it in the future. He has room to grow in relation to creating and producing more in the offensive zone.

He and Adam Larsson played very well together, and he played 1080 of his 1406 5×5 minutes with Larsson. Todd McLellan would prefer to keep them together, as continuity is a huge advantage for any defensive pairing. I presume he will improve simply from having more playing time with Larsson as those two learn more about one another.

However, if McLellan has to split them up, Klefbom would most likely then play with Matt Benning. They played 131 minutes together last season. It’s a small sample size, but they had very good numbers, including a 55% Fenwick For (104-85) and a very good SF-SA at 82-61.

Ideally, the Oilers won’t need to separate the Klefbom/Larsson pairing and they will be their clear cut #1 pair. Last season, Andrej Sekera and Kris Russell faced very similar competition as Klefbom/Larsson, but with Sekera on the shelf for at least two months, likely more, Klefbom and Larsson should see a bump in their icetime.

Klefbom is in great shape (as seen in Baggedmilk’s regular posts of pictures of Klefbom’s abs on the Oilersnation twitter and Instagram page). He is big and strong enough to handle a few extra minutes, and as he continues to gain more experience I believe he will be able to handle the increased minutes successfully.

I think Klefbom is more than capable of moving into the top-20 in scoring among NHL defenders. He was 33rd last season and if he can score 43-45 points that would slot him around 15th to 20th based on the past few seasons.

His offensive prowess on the PP will also improve. He’d only played 83 PP minutes prior to last season. He didn’t have much PP experience at the NHL level before scoring 3-13-16 on the PP last year. The Oilers powerplay was very good last year and with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl running the first unit, and it should once again be top-five in the NHL. As Klefbom gains more confidence in his shot, and getting in positions to use his shot and releasing it quicker, there is no reason to believe he can’t score 20 PP points this year.

The one area he can improve is his reads. Much of that can come from experience, but it is no guarantee more experience guarantees he will make the right read more often. Part of that is experience and part is just hockey sense. It is too early to say for sure what is holding him back from making the right reads most of the time like the top-end defenders. Reads are not just one-on-one plays where a player gets exposed.

Klefbom’s age, contract and ability make him one of the most important players in Edmonton moving forward. I believe he is their best chance to develop into a true #1 defender. He is already a top-pair defender, but he has the size, skill and ability to become a top-15 defender in the NHL.

If he can score 45 points and continue to play the tough minutes, he will put himself in the conversation as one of the top-25 defenders in the NHL this season.

Will Klefbom improve his offence? Can he become a top-20 defender?

QUICK HITS

  • Matt Hendricks signed a one-year deal with the Winnipeg Jets last weekend. The Oilers needed to open a spot for Jujhar Khaira or Iiro Pakarinen and Hendricks knew when he left Edmonton in May he wasn’t going to return to the Oilers. I spoke to him this week and one of his answers really stood out for me. His response to not playing in the playoffs made it clear to me why his teammates respected him so much. You can read it here. 

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • madjam

      Replacing Sekara’s ability will be tough , but depth of Oilers defence looks quite promising . Vanc. used 11-12 different defenceman last 2 seasons due to defenceman injuries . We have the depth to handle that if this year injuries hit the defence despite losing Oesterle , Davidson and Reinhart . Minus Sekara we still have NHL defenceman in Klef, Larsson , Russell , Nurse , Benning , Gryba , Auvitu , and even Fayne . Close to some of those are Simpson , Stanton and Lowe . Young ones that might pop up are Bear , Jones , Paigin and Mantha . Considering the upside of our young defensive crew , I think we are in better shape than last season .

  • Hemmercules

    Hendy will be missed, maybe not a lot on the ice but he sounds like a real team player that everyone liked. Need room for the young blood.

    I think injuries are the only thing that really worries me this next season. Seems like we got really lucky with the injuries last year. Maybe it was just a product of having a tougher team. Seeing all the top players on the team play out the entire season was a welcome change and I hope it keeps up.

  • OilCan2

    The Oilers like Klefbom and he will be great value moving forward. I for one have enjoyed watching him succeed this past year and am ready for more of the same great play from him.

  • TKB2677

    I wouldn’t split up Klefbom and Larsson. They established chemistry and became a very effective pair. With the loss of Sekera, I would lean on that pair more by playing them more. Then split up the minutes more equally between the second and 3rd pair. If you look at the time on ice last year, Klefbom had just over 22 mins but he got a ton of PP time. Then Sekera and Russell had just over 21 mins and Larsson almost 21 mins. So in reality, they played their 1st and 2nd pairing pretty equally. I would widen the gap a little this season between the first and second pair.

  • madjam

    Gregor : Will there be any live streaming of the Oilers rookies in Penticton Tourney , only 8 days away . Oilers have several young defenceman that could be fun to watch , as well as a few forwards .

  • OriginalPouzar

    It will be important for Oscar to play another full season – if he is able to then I don’t think any of the possibilities listed are unreasonable – Klef is an exceptional player and I see him getting better in various aspects of the game.

    One, of course, is the PP as that was new to him last year and he only took over on 1PP when Reggie (and the unit) were struggling – he did well with his shot but he wasn’t material in puck-distribution – I think he will be a better “QB” this year.

    I am still worried about injuries. I’m worried about injuries to our back-end in general. An injury to Klef or Larsson before Reggie gets back could be somewhat devastating. The risk is a bit increased as we won’t be running 1A/1B splitting the tough minutes. The 1st will play an extra few minutes a game. That does make a difference as the season goes on.

    Go Klef – you are one of my favorites!

  • oilers1168

    I believe Klefbom/ Larsson pairing is just as good as that couple down the QE2. Specially when you factor in CAP hit. hamilton is good but overrated because he is a good Canadian boy. Gio got step around like a turnstall pretty often last year. JMHO

    • HOCKEY83

      Both Gio and Hamilton were in the top 8 in Norris trophy candidates. Edmonton had no one close. Klefbom and Larsson were no where near the caliber they were. At least research the facts before you spew fan boy comments.

      Sure he was beat in the 4 edmonton wins VS Calgary but they were early on in the season when the entire team was playing like crap. After January the flames were the top 8th winning team in the league higher than Edmonton. Every pundit in the league gushed about gio’s superstar effort after every game. He picked it up in a big way as the pro he is. Hamilton and Gio were listed as the top defensive duo in the league not by flames fans but by the guys who get paid to rank these players.

      Do you only watch Edmonton games. I’m an Alberta boy so I watch every Calgary and Edmonton game. Sure I was a battle of Alberta boy way back when but that hasn’t existed and still doesn’t since 1991. You people try to create a battle by calling each other names and putting down great players on both sides and it just comes off as uneducated drivel. I’m a flames fan through and throug but I’ve also taken to watching awesome hockey and talented players. It’s incredibly juvenile to put a massive talent down like McDavid as it is to put any of the other stars in the league unless they truly are dicks. If Calgary doesn’t make it my focus goes to Edmonton and vice versa. I’ve also got teams like that in the east. There’s no one who has anything to do with hockey that believes the battle will be the same ever again. Just specifically due the amount of Alberta crossover fans there are now. The parody is going to be so close that very surprising teams will mis the playoffs by a shoot out loss point more than likely. Dallas and Winnipeg will be knocking 2 good teams out of a playoff spot and it could be anyone from last season. Any slight injury to a star player could end that teams season. Time will tell but I think Edmonton and dallas will be fighting for the west lead and the other six spot will be fought over closely by the other 8 teams. Vancouver Arizona Vegas Colorado Los Angeles will be fighting for last place. There’s certain people who come to bot FN and ON who want to talk intelligent hockey and then you got they guys who just come are and their most intelligent comment is “you’re stupid…”no you’re stupid it’s ridiculous.

      The bottom line is the flames have built a D corps that is second to none in the league with a number of talented forward players and the oilers have one of the most talent forward corps in the league with an ok middle of the league D corps. Time will tell which works best. I’m hoping that Alberta teams take over the domination of the California teams starting this season.

      • Mc🙏

        Hey man. You come on to ON and rant about people being juvenile and what not. But all that ‘oilers1168’ said was he ‘believed’. I think modt people know that gio and hamilton were tops in the league last year, but what goes underrated because of our great forwards, is the play of Klefbom ( who emerged as a great talent last year ) and Larrsson ( who is a beast, and helped Klefbom emerge ) so if he ‘believes’ that they are close to Gio snd Hamilton i dont think he is that far off. And yes Calgary has a great D-core ( on paper ) but if Hammonic doesnt turn it around ( really bad last 2 years ) or Brodie ( really bad last 2 years in comparison to his previous ones ). Than it is hard to say they are the top dcore in the league until the games are played. If you would like to call the kettle black, what about all the guys that come to ON and spee that our top pair would hardly make your 3rd pair?

      • DerpSolo

        Oilers have the advantage in forwards, and flames have the advantage on defence. Goaltending probably goes to the Oilers as well, unless mike smith shows us he’s a top ten goalie ( I’m def drafting him this year, sleeper pick ). It’ll make for some good BOA