Oscar Klefbom is an offensive defenseman who had two points last year. Let's get that off the table now.
So why is Klefbom in the top ten? Because he's playing at a higher level than his lower-ranked rivals. A regular defenseman with a good team in the Swedish Elitserien, Klefbom has the benefit of first-class professional competition against players a decade older than him at only 19 years of age. No other Oilers defenseman can boast that. He has 56 career Elitserien games under his belt already over two seasons; quite something in a league with a relatively short schedule but a high standard of play.
His numbers have been hurt by a few minor injuries that don't seem to have long-term effects. His coach has faith in him, and it's not like he's sneaking out minutes for a garbage team Sebastien Bisaillon style: he plays regularly for a good squad.
What I see from Klefbom isn't a multitude of points. What I see is something better: a player who's defying the "offensive defenseman" rep and showing that he can be useful in all zones.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
I'm the high man on Klefbom but there's a larger-than-usual degree of consensus, with Alan and Derek B. dropping him down to a lowly tenth (oh my) and myself ranking him at #7 (blithering optimist). His "drop" from #8 in January to #9 today is, spoiler alert, because we added new prospects who are ranked higher.
This past year with Färjestad Klefbom managed two goals and no assists, which is a weird line for any position, let alone a blueliner. He also got only four penalty minutes, which is sort of nice, in 13:43 per game in 33 appearances. To put it in perspective Colten Teubert played 12:38 per game but no Oiler defenseman with over 40 appearances played so few (Andy Sutton was closest at 16:41).
So a complete writeoff? Hardly. Klefbom gradually got healthy and won head coach Leif Carlsson's confidence as the season wore on; he appeared in only five of Färjestad's first twelve games but got into 16 of their final 20. A couple concussions and a freak thigh injury hurt him three times before Christmas, but the 19-year-old was soon automatic-when-healthy for a team that was in the top half of the Swedish Elitserien table.
When the games got serious, Klefbom's ice time actually went up: he played all eleven of Färjestad's playoff games, recording an assist in 19:33 per night. Far from being sheltered as a useless young pup in the clutch, Carlsson relied on Klefbom heavily, and it wasn't for scoring.
None of Färjestad's defensemen really racked up the points: former Canadiens draft pick Magnus Nygren was the class of the group with only 18 points (and a ghastly -10), eighth in team scoring; chippy veteran Martin Svec had 16. Carlsson relied on his defensemen to play strong two-way games, not be Ryan Whitney types, and the one-dimensional Nygren was almost unused in the playoffs as a result (just over six minutes per game in ten games). When Klefbom got more, not less, responsibility in these circumstances, it was an expression of confidence in more than just the offense scouts drool over.
Both Klefbom's goals came in his last three games so he finished strong, for what that's worth, which is nothing. Ultimately, however, recording such a freakish scoreline suggests either total incompetence (not borne out by his good defensive record handling light responsibilities on a competitive team or the coach's continued confidence) or weird luck. Frankly, a 6'3" defenseman who shoots well and gets occasional powerplay time should get a few assists over 33 games just from pucks pinballing off somebody's ass.
Comparing Klefbom to his teammate (and draft year rival) Jonas Brodin is interesting. Brodin had eight assists and no goals this season but played far more than Klefbom because of greater health. Come playoff time, Brodin was getting less than a minute more icetime than Klefbom every game. Obviously Brodin is ahead, but it's not a bad indication if Klefbom is keeping pace with the highly-touted eighth overall pick in his draft class.
With an Edmonton Oilers contract in his hand, Klefbom will be heading to the AHL this coming season. He's got experience in quality professional hockey already; his learning curve won't be as steep as some of the junior or NCAA types we see heading that way. The holes remaining in his game are mostly matters of timing and training: he certainly has the physical assets and the intelligence to succeed already, meaning the AHL apprenticeship should do wonders for him.
The Justin Schultz saga got the headlines this summer, but in my books the Oilers best defensive prospect was already here.