ARLINGTON, Va. -- We already know where the vast majority of players at Capitals training camp will be playing for a majority of the season. Some players have contracts with other teams, the NHL players know they will be with the Caps, junior players know they will be with their respective junior teams, etc. There are few spots on the Caps’ roster that are up for grabs and only a handful of players who are actually competing for them.
And then there is Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
Recognizable for his long, blonde hair, Jonsson-Fjallby has become an intriguing prospect. He already possesses NHL speed and it is just a matter of waiting for the rest of his game to catch up before making the NHL roster becomes a real possibility.
But he is also an intriguing player because of the uncertainty of where he may play.
Last season, Jonsson-Fjallby was sent to Hershey, but returned to his native Sweden after just 16 games. That led many to wonder just where he would be playing this season. If he did not make the NHL squad, which seems very unlikely at this point, would he again choose to return to Sweden?
In May, Jonsson-Fjallby said he would be staying in North American regardless of whether he was in the NHL or AHL. Now at training camp, he reiterated that sentiment.
“Yeah, I’ll stay,” Jonsson-Fjallby told NBC Sports Washington.
Even if you are sent to Hershey?
No plans to go back to Sweden?
Whatever the personal reasons may have been for Jonsson-Fjallby’s decision to, it appears to have been ill-advised in terms of his NHL hopes.
Clearly general manager Brian MacLellan was displeased with the performance of the Caps’ fourth line and penalty kill as he made a number of acquisitions in the offseason to address those needs. But as those are spots that Jonsson-Fjallby could have potentially competed for, it also shows the team still believes Jonsson-Fjallby still has more work to do before he can realistically compete for a spot on the NHL roster. Perhaps if he was fully adjusted to the North American game he would have had more of a shot. Just 16 games at the AHL level, however, are not enough.
“I feel like I've been playing a lot,” Jonsson-Fjallby said, “But you can still get used to it more.”
The ice rink is much smaller in North America which makes the game both faster and more physical than in Europe. Adjusting to the different style is hard for players to do and will require more time from Jonsson-Fjallby than 16 games, a rookie tournament and a training camp to figure out.
Jonsson-Fjallby said he is working on the details of his game to make it simpler.
“Plays on the board, playing simpler sometimes,” he said. “Since I don't have as much time here since the ice is smaller, I just feel like sometimes I can make an easier play.”
With Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway, Brendan Leipsic, Chandler Stephenson and Travis Boyd all competing for fourth line spots, Jonsson-Fjallby will almost certainly be headed to Hershey this season, but that is the best thing for him. He struggled during the Prospects Showcase and at times in camp and he is not yet ready to take on a full-time NHL role. That is something he can work on in Hershey if and only if he remains in North America and, for now, he says he is committed to doing just that.
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