Future Watch: Oscar Klefbom
Oilers prospect has skill, will, swagger & dreams at 2012 World Junior Championship
|Oscar Klefbom battles with Canada's Tanner Pearson during a pre-tournament game on Dec. 23, 2011 at Rexall Place Photo by Andy Devlin (IIHF/Hockey Canada).
But among the orange and blue's prospect class is another highly touted player, whose skill-set has impressed most, leaving the masses with a spellbound look when he engineers a scoring chance or a simple breakout pass to help choreograph his team's up-ice attack.
Selected 19th overall in 2011, one dream came true. Due to his contractual obligations in Sweden, he was unable to come to Edmonton in July and September for the Oilers' development, rookie and main camps, so his team's pre-tournament contest on Dec. 23 at Rexall Place was next best.
One night earlier, he and his teammates were given the chance to watch the Oilers go head-to-head with the Minnesota Wild; the home side won 4-1 that night, too, in a thrilling pre-holiday matchup.
It was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. Perched in the press box behind Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Grant Fuhr and others' legendary retirement banners, Oilers prospect Oscar Klefbom was introduced to Oil Country in the most emphatic way possible.
"When we watched that game against Minnesota at Rexall Place, it was so awesome," he said with a giant ear-to-ear grin. "It was a dream come true and one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. It gave me some extra motivation work even harder to make sure I get there one day."
One dream penned, several more to come; and the next could very well happen in a matter of hours, 300 kilometres south in a rival's home building. Following an emotional, come-from-behind win over Finland on Tuesday, Sweden will now challenge Russia in what promises to be a wild gold medal clash.
Whether it's gold or silver, the experience and rise in development can't be told without opportunity. It's come in spades since the tournament began.
"I can't put into words how good this has been for me," Klefbom explained. "It's been an unreal experience, one I'll cherish. We're going for the gold and we need to be ready, but I'm certain that I've become a much better player since the tournament started. That's pretty important and I think it'll help me get to the next level when the time is right, which is what's most important."
The time is still to be determined. The 6'4", 205-pound rearguard is still under contract in Sweden's Elitserien with Farjestads BK, hoping to hone his all-encompassing skill-set in physical, high-octane men's league. He notched one goal and one assist, along with a +1 rating in 23 games last season as a rookie. In 17 games in 2011-12, he's been held pointless but has continued to present and intimidating and otherwise overwhelming presence to his opponents.
"It depends on this season and how much I'm going to play back home," he said when asked about his intentions to come play in North America. "It won't be too long, but it depends on the ice-time I get, in what situations I get to play and how much I can learn.
"It's a very good organization," he added. "There are so great many players that make the team really good. I think the development opportunities are excellent, so it's up to me to make good on them. I think I've been doing that well, so it's been a good chance for me to develop and improve my game."
Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor has been in attendance all throughout the tournament in Edmonton and Calgary, and has been thrilled with what the orange and blue's stud D prospect has been able to show.
"He's been very good," MacGregor explained. "He skates extremely well, he's a big guy. He's got a great breakout pass, too. He's playing in a men's league in Sweden, which is real good for him. It teaches him how to be a pro, how to play pro hockey, and how to be involved with pro players and people that make a living. That's a strength for him."
No. 6 was named Sweden's Player of the Game in his squad's thrilling 3-2 win over Finland, too, but that didn't come as a surprise to Head Coach Roger Ronnberg; the 18-year-old's ability to navigate open-ice, distribute the puck when needed and get involved in the scoring attack is what makes him such a special addition to his nation's entry.
"I loved his game," Ronnberg recalled. "He was our shutdown D, played against the other team's top lines and shut them down pretty good. Just as well, he can contribute up the ice and help score goals, which makes him very valuable to our team. He's been an excellent two-way defenceman in this tournament."
With the experience provided by the 2012 World Junior Championship in mind, the Oilers' budding young prospect can't help but show his enthusiasm. It's been another step toward bigger and better things, as his career, skill and charisma have developed to help his NHL dream come true.
"I know, I know," he exclaimed. "I'm so excited. It's close, but I can't stop working. Right now, I'm happy with how everything has been going. If it happens (playing for the Oilers), it would be a dream come true."
What can you say? He dreams big.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
Prospect Stats Updated as of Thursday, January 5, 2012.
|20||24||2||3||5||-1||112||Stockton Thunder (ECHL)|
|23||33||3||14||17||+9||12||Oklahoma City Barons (AHL)|
|21||28||17||4||21||+3||13||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|19||28||11||15||26||+4||30||Kootenay ice (WHL)|
|18||-||-||-||-||-||-||edmonton oil kings (WHL)|
|34||19||7||10||17||+7||21||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|20||26||3||5||8||0||2||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|21||23||8||7||15||-2||10||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|25||32||4||7||11||+9||13||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|27||35||13||15||28||+13||20||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|22||12||5||3||8||4||12||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|20||26||5||9||14||-9||8||stockton thunder (ECHL)|
|24||7||1||6||7||+2||4||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|24||32||7||9||16||+12||52||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|19||34||13||12||25||+19||48||edmonton oil kings (WHL)|
|19||30||4||5||9||-9||22||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|20||30||10||7||17||-5||10||ilves tampere (sm-liiga)|
|25||34||7||9||16||-10||18||vaxjo hc (SEL)|
|18||30||22||15||37||+15||10||kitchener rangers (OHL)|
|25||34||6||6||12||+5||24||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|22||15||2||5||7||+6||4||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|24||35||3||8||11||-5||12||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|19||30||6||18||24||+9||54||acadie-bathurst titan (QMjhl)|
|19||17||3||6||9||2||6||OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS (AHL)|
|20||41||8||23||31||+15||50||regina pats (wHL)|
|18||31||7||18||25||+23||26||edmonton oil kings (WHL)|
|18||17||0||0||0||0||2||farjestads bk karlstad (SEL)|
|19||28||3||13||16||-3||25||prince george cougars (WHL)|
|22||13||0||0||0||+3||12||Timra ik (seL)|
|18||35||1||15||16||+8||69||vancouver giants (WHL)|
|23||2||0||1||1||+1||2||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|22||28||1||10||11||+13||63||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|18||20||0||9||9||0||4||u. of north dakota|
|21||18||2||4||6||+7||33||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|19||34||22||8||4||2.48||.924||medicine hat tigers (WHL)|
|30||22||15||5||1||2.19||.923||oklahoma city barons (AHL)|
|18||9||-||-||-||3.53||.897||Jyp ht jyvaskyla (sm-liiga)|
|20||17||5||8||4||2.83||.910||stockton thunder (echl)|
|20||17||6||5||5||2.59||.900||jokerit helsinki (sm-liiga)|