Kylington shows he's still got it on special night at the Saddledome

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Late in Thursday’s first period, Oliver Kylington tapped a pass to himself along the left boards and took off.

There it was. That smooth stride, that wicked speed.

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Kylington got in just behind the Columbus Blue Jackets defence before ripping a shot that flew just agonizingly wide.

Whether Kylington scored or not was hardly the point, though. He could have been atrocious on Thursday night and his return to NHL action after missing 20 months while he attended to his mental health would still have been worth celebrating.

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But the Calgary Flames defenceman wasn’t atrocious. Not even a little bit. In fact, head coach Ryan Huska referred to him as one of the Flames’ “bright spots.”

And on that particular play, he showed that flash of his high-end talent.

It was a reminder of what he’s capable of.

A reminder to the fans, but a reminder to Kylington, too.

If he needed any sort of proof that he could still shine at the NHL level, he got it.

“Pretty much after that moment, yeah,” Kylington said when he felt fully confident in his game. “I regretted that I didn’t take the puck to the net and break it to the second post, but I felt like I can still do what I’m doing. I’m just going to keep working at it and progress and hopefully pucks will go in and we’ll get wins.”

Kylington, to his credit, repeated again and again that he was disappointed with the Flames’ 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets.

He didn’t want to make it all about himself, even if it was inevitable that his return to NHL action was the big story of the night at the Saddledome.

Calgary Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington hits the ice for warm up before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Saddledome on Thursday
Calgary Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington hits the ice for warm up before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Saddledome on Thursday, January 25, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia Photo by Brent Calver/Postmedia /Brent Calver/Postmedia

That was true from the very second he skated onto the ice in warmups and was greeted by warm applause.

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The ovation was significantly louder when Kylington’s name was read-out during pre-game after Huska had put him in the starting lineup.

And the Calgary crowd roared every time he touched the puck. They were never louder than during the aforementioned play, when he made full-use of his blazing speed and came oh-so-close to scoring a goal that would have sent the Saddledome into a full-blown frenzy.

Kylington’s journey back to the rink has inspired a lot of people. The way he’s tackled his mental health challenges and has come through the other side to return to the Flames is the type of thing that a lot of people take strength from.

And those people wanted to show their appreciation to Kylington on Thursday night.

It meant a lot.

“It’s touching, for sure, it really is,” Kylington said. “I just want to give it back, you know. I just want to show my abilities on the ice and I think that’s my way to give it back, so have to work hard and keep going here and I want to show my best.

“This was nothing I could ever expect, when you see people writing to you, cheering for you, applauding you, it really touches you in a way I wasn’t expecting.”

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Given the circumstances, Kylington showed-out in a real way on Thursday night.
For the most part, he was paired with Jordan Oesterle. He was a minus-one in 13:16 of ice-time and was credited with a shot-on-net, as well as a takeaway and two blocked shots.

There were also a few nice rushes where he carried the puck confidently up the ice before feeding it to teammates, and no notable moments where Kylington looked out of his depth.

“I thought he did a really good job tonight,” Huska said.

There weren’t many other bright spots for the Flames. They lost their fourth-straight game and fell further behind in a playoff race that they’re only tangentially involved in at the moment.
On any other day, that would probably be the story here.

But Thursday night belonged to Kylington, in all the ways that really matter.

“I felt pretty good, I just tried to keep it simple from the beginning and let the game just come to me,” Kylington said. “Got some looks and the game came to me, so just have to progress like this and keep going.

“It was normal for me. Everything felt normal, guys made it pretty easy for me to come in. I felt relaxed, I felt excited, it felt normal to me.”

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