Capitals

Capitals

Rumors began to spread in early October that forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was going to leave the Hershey Bears to return to his native Sweden. Those reports were disputed by the team and Jonsson-Fjallby remained in Hershey…until mid-November when Jonsson-Fjallby did end up returning to Sweden and was loaned to Djurgardens IF in the SHL.

Soon after his return, Jonsson-Fjallby confirmed that he had indeed decided to return home in early October around when the rumors began to spread.

“That was true, but I couldn’t leave Hershey until November 14 due to my contract,” Jonsson-Fjallby said, as translated by RMNB.

I am on record as not being a fan of this decision. A player cannot adjust to the North American game if he is not playing in North America. Playing in Sweden does not seem like a good decision in terms of his future career if his ultimate goal is to reach the NHL. I am even more wary now given just how quickly he decided to return home.

If Jonsson-Fjallby’s mentality is that he does not want to play in North American unless it’s in the NHL, then he is going to have a tough time making it to that level. To find out why, he need only look to a now former Hershey teammate in Sergei Shumakov.

Shumakov’s signing in the offseason generated some buzz within the Capitals fan base in the offseason. Here’s a player who registered 40 points in the KHL last season in just 47 games. But you did not have to watch him in camp or the preseason very long to realize that he was not ready for the NHL just yet.

 

Shumakov, 26, has a much more established professional career in the KHL than Jonsson-Fjallby, 20, has in the SHL at this point. Shumakov proved he was an effective point producer in Russia and yet, he came to North America and struggled before getting assigned to Hershey. It’s a very different game in North American than in Europe.

The Caps, meanwhile, soon found themselves to be in need of a right wing due to the suspension to Tom Wilson and claimed Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers. That is not to suggest the team has moved on from Shumakov by any means, but the fact is that, when healthy, Washington has two extra forwards on the roster already not including Shumakov. Making it onto the Caps roster is an uphill climb for him at this point and he will have to light up the AHL to justify a call-up.

Jonsson-Fjallby’s best attribute (besides his hair) is his speed. Speed translates at any level so perhaps there is hope for him, but it is very likely that Jonsson-Fjallby, like most European players, will need time to adjust to the North American game. When you need that time to adjust, the team does not always have the luxury of waiting for you.

Rather than adjusting to North America, Jonsson-Fjallby is playing in Sweden and that is going to make it hard for him to crack the NHL squad out of camp next season. If Jonsson-Fjallby has a mentality of NHL or bust and otherwise won’t play in North America, he has made his path to the NHL an infinitely more difficult one. Like Shumakov, most players are not able to go directly from Europe to the NHL and I am doubtful Jonsson-Fjallby will prove to be the exception.

Other prospect notes:

•        Speaking of Shumakov, he finally returned to the lineup after an upper-body injury kept him out for 13 games. He registered a point in each of his two games since returning with a goal and an assist. The goal was a bit of a fluke as a centering pass deflected off a defenseman and into the net. His assist was actually a much better play. The main point, however, is that he stepped right back into the lineup and was able to contribute. That’s a good sign.
•        Vitek Vanecek returned from an upper-body injury to lead the team to a 3-2 win over rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday. He made 25 saves in the game and improved his record to 4-3-0-1 on the season.
•        A four-game goal streak propelled Riley Barber to second on the Bears in goals with seven. He is tied with Liam O’Brien and sits two shy of Mike Sgarbossa’s nine. Both Barber and Sgarbossa are tied for the team lead in points with 14.
•        Shane Gersich scored just his second goal of the season on Nov. 16. In 21 games, he has two goals and 10 points. Some may be surprised at his lack of production given the fact that he was able to step into the Caps’ lineup right after college last season, but it is important to remember that this is Gersich’s first professional season. Ten points is not bad at all and he looks to be right on target in his development.
•        Since returning to Hershey from the Caps, Nathan Walker has two goals and four points in six games. At 24 years old, I think it is safe to label him as a “tweener” at this point. He is a high-end AHL player, but not someone I see as having an everyday role on an NHL squad.
•        Jayson Megna has scored a goal in four of the Bears’ last five games. He now has six goals in 17 games, good for fourth on the team.
•        Mason Mitchell made his season debut on Nov. 17 after injuries forced him to miss the team’s first 17 games. In four games, he has yet to register a point or a shot on goal.
•        Tyler Lewington ranks second in the AHL in PIM with 67. I’m still not sure why this is seen as a good thing. Maybe it’s from fantasy hockey where players are rewarded for having more PIMs, which never made sense to me. If you think Lewington’s PIMs are mostly from fights, according to HockeyFights.com he has three fights this season. In one fight he also received a minor for roughing and in another he received a minor and a misconduct for instigating. That accounts for 29 minutes. That means there’s another 38 minutes in addition to those fights in just 21 games. That’s just too much.
•        Alex Alexeyev has missed the last two games for Red Deer due to an upper-body injury. He is considered day-to-day.
•        Kody Clark is red-hot in the OHL. In his past six games, he has recorded five goals and 10 points and has been named the third star of the game twice, the second star once and the first star once.
•        Benton Maass suffered an upper-body injury on Friday in the dying seconds of overtime as he collided hard into the boards the back boards while battling for a puck. It looked as if Maass hit the boards directly with his shoulder. The injury forced him to miss New Hampshire’s game on Saturday and no further update as to his status has been released. 
•        Chase Priskie is putting together a very impressive season in Quinnipiac. He ranks third overall in the ECAC in points (16) and second in goals (8) and he’s doing it as a defenseman.

 

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