Oscar Klefbom is one of the Edmonton Oilers' top prospects. The 20-year-old defenseman from Sweden is expected to make his NHL debut later this season, but he might spend at least two or three months with the Oklahoma City Barons.
Games in the AHL, like OKC's two-game road trip to Iowa this weekend, are invaluable for the 2011 first-round pick.
“Oscar is a defenseman's defenseman,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “He really prides himself on playing good defensive hockey. He skates well. He's a strong kid. He's able to move the puck. He's got a lot of skill. He just needs to play hockey games.”
Sidelined by a shoulder injury that required surgery last December, Klefbom played in only 11 games last season in Sweden's pro league.
“It's fun to be on the ice again,” Klefbom said. “I've been waiting for this for a very long time.”
One of the keys for Klefbom with the Barons will be adjusting to smaller rinks in North America, always a challenge the in first season for European players.
“Things happen quicker here,” Nelson said. “You're always chipping and supporting (defensively) versus carrying the puck. Here, there's not as much circling and regrouping. Teams work their systems so well you have to work the boards, do the dirty work to get the puck into the offensive zone.”
Klefbom gained confidence in limited “North American hockey” action as captain of Sweden's Under-18 world juniors team that won silver in 2010. He also has stood out the past two summers at Edmonton's summer developmental camps.
But there are differences.
“Oh yeah,” Klefbom said. “But I think it's tougher for players here to go from the smaller ice to the bigger ice in Europe. I like the smaller ice. It's a closer gap to the forwards. I'm looking forward to it.”
In the long-term, Klefbom eventually could be paired with Justin Schultz, who won the AHL Defenseman of the Year award last season for his play with the Barons during the NHL lockout.