Oscar Klefbom has become one of, if not the best defencemen on the Edmonton Oilers blueline.
He was drafted nine years ago in the first round and it took time for him to develop his game. And it wasn’t really until the 2017-18 season when he really broke out. In 82 games that year, he scored career highs in goals (12) and in points (38).
Since then, Klefbom has continued to play some of the best hockey of his career, but injuries continue to leave a harsh mark on his track record. That 2016-17 season was the only season he played a full season.
It’s been tough without a doubt, but Klefbom continues to give the Oilers strong minutes when he’s healthy. And this season wasn’t very different.
Playing a career-high 25:25 this season, he posted a career-high 29 assists and another five goals in 62 games. He blocked the most shots in the NHL getting in front of 180 pucks with pretty much average 5v5 isolated impacts.
Klefbom was a large part of the Oilers high-ranking penalty kill this year offering four per cent better isolated impacts than the NHL average.
So all in all, Klefbom had himself a solid year for the Oilers playing three minutes more a night than he averaged prior to this season.
Edmonton doesn’t have a clear cut No. 1 defenceman like many other organizations do, but Klefbom is without a doubt the most complete, well-rounded rearguard the Oilers have.
And with that, he’ll be relied heavily upon in the play-in round and further. Klefbom and his likely partner Adam Larsson will draw the top competition of the Blackhawks.
Exactly who that top competition is is yet to be seen. The Oilers are set to kick-off their post-season play next Saturday, so I imagine this week will largely revolve around the Oilers embarking on deeper breakdowns of the Blackhawks club.
Nonetheless, I’d imagine Klefbom and Larsson will draw against the Alex Nylander – Dylan Strome – Patrick Kane line for Chicago. I think the offensive potency of Kane is who the Oilers will want Klefbom matching up against.
It’s going to be a far from easy matchup for Klefbom, but we know he has the ability to shutdown Chicago’s top-six offence. He’ll also be expected to continue his stellar penalty kill work against a Blackhawks club who had the fourth-worst powerplay in the league.
Klefbom was a key cog in the Oilers 2017 playoff run-scoring five points in 12 games averaging just over 23 minutes a night. He elevated his game in those playoffs and much of the same is going to be expected of him this time around.
On Twitter: @zjlaing