Flames’ Kylington turns another page in NHL comeback story
The 26-year-old has missed the past two seasons due to personal matters, but was assigned to the AHL’s Wranglers last week – a big step in his recovery process.
He had been skating on his own in Calgary since training camp in September and, after a handful of skates with the farm club, was in the starting lineup on Thursday night at the Saddledome versus the Ontario Reign, a 3-2 win.
“Make a good first pass,” he chuckled, when asked of what was going through his head on the very first shift.
“I just tried to make a good play and join [the rush]. I just tried to keep it simple in the beginning and get my feet underneath me.”
Wranglers head coach Trent Cull paired Kylington with veteran Colton Poolman and put him in positions to succeed. He started all three periods, had several offensive zone starts, and saw extended time on the top power-play unit.
“I thought he had a good game,” Cull said.
“All around solid, skating well, handling the puck. I thought he was good in d-zone coverage. Watching live, I thought it was a good performance for him.”
Overall, Kylington looked calm and poised in his return to action. He had a couple of end-to-end rushes, wasn’t shy about walking the blueline, and seemed to gain confidence as the game progressed. The Swede drove the net on multiple occasions and ended the night with a shot on goal and two penalty minutes.
“I felt pretty relaxed,” he said, adding that timing was the biggest adjustment.
“I felt pretty good for a first game…I trust my instincts and what I can deliver, so I just tried to trust that and have fun out there. I didn’t try to paint the picture bigger than it is.”
Kylington had skated with the Flames development staff for several weeks since coming back from Sweden in September. He felt comfortable and told the organization that he wanted to resume his career.
“Communication and support,” Wranglers assistant general manager Brad Pascall said of the process for Kylington to return.
“Those would be the two things best to describe where he was and where he is now.”
“I’ve been working hard off the ice with the coaches,” Kylington said.
Pascall noted how happy Kylington seemed to be getting back in that team setting again.
“I think it’s been real positive,” Pascall said.
“Any time you’re in a team sport…I think there’s a comfort level of being around your peers.”
Flames diehards will remember how the 2015 second-round pick burst onto the scene during the team’s Pacific Division title in the 2021-22 season on a pairing with veteran Chris Tanev. Kylington was essentially that group’s fourth defenceman with 31 points in 73 games, a remarkable rise given he wasn’t a lock to make the team out of camp.
Kylington’s last NHL game was in May of 2022 during the Battle of Alberta playoff series.
Those days seem like a lifetime ago, but Flames fans haven’t forgotten.
The small crowd saluted him when he was introduced ahead of the national anthems.
“It was nice,” he said.
“The fanbase here in Calgary and just people around the city have been so nice and supportive when I’ve run into them. I appreciate all the support. I really do.”
He even took a moment during warmups to glance at the fans.
“I saw some signs,” he said.
“It was nice. It’s touching. I’m happy to be back and just give my best.”
Kylington’s now focused on what lies ahead in his comeback story.
“I’ve felt that [confidence] before this game, but it was nice to get this over with,” he continued.
“I just want to keep building and look forward to the future.”