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With Hagelin Hurt, Jonsson-Fjallby Has Big Skates To Fill For Capitals: ‘He’s Flying Out There’

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Capitals forward Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A soft-spoken Axel Jonsson-Fjallby knows that he has big skates to fill for the Washington Capitals.

Right now, a number of circumstances suggest that the 24-year-old will make the full-time NHL jump and be a regular in the lineup with Carl Hagelin out indefinitely following a “serious” eye injury.

Things took a turn drastically on a busy Tuesday for the Capitals at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, when Hagelin, in the last set of competition drills to close out practice, took a high stick to the left eye. The 33-year-old left the ice in visible pain and would undergo surgery that very evening and be ruled out for an extended period of time — and then indefinitely. After one game with Daniel Sprong filling in and Anthony Mantha returning, head coach Peter Laviolette and Washington made the decision to bring up AJF from the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

The long-haired freshman looks the part and plays the part of Hagelin: a versatile role player with speed and strong play at both ends who also possesses the ability to log time on the penalty kill. However, his mindset remains the same as earlier in the season. He’s still a rookie with plenty to prove, and an almost 100 percent guaranteed spot in the lineup on the powerhouse line with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway doesn’t change that.

“Probably, yeah, I feel more relaxed on the ice,” Jonsson-Fjallby, not a man of many words, admitted. “But still, I’ve got to play good.”

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With 10 NHL games now under his belt — and one assist over that span — AJF will now have to clear waivers to return to Hershey, meaning that he’ll likely stay up following an impressive 44-game tenure with the Bears this season. His 36 points were good for second on the team in scoring, and he also logged top-6 minutes while playing a key role on the PK.

“It’s really tough without Carl. Every guy is feeling it in there. He’s such an important part of our team, in the room and on the ice, and so we miss him. You take a guy like that out of the lineup, and you’re going to feel it,” Laviolette mentioned.

In his first game back in the Show since early November, Jonsson-Fjallby put on a strong showing against the Kraken on Saturday, proving he can be a sound substitute for No. 62. He was showcasing his speed and ability at both ends, while also helping the penalty kill go 3-for-3 vs. Seattle. He also had strong chemistry alongside Dowd and Hathaway, and even drew a penalty while hitting 20 MPH and generating pressure on the forecheck.

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Through 12:16 minutes — 1:44 of those on the PK — he picked up a shot and a hit and utilized his physicality and skating ability en route to a 5-2 win.

“I thought he was really good. You notice his speed out there,” Laviolette noted. “I thought he did a good job on that line… for him to jump back in, first few shifts, it looked like he was finding his way out there. But as the game went on, you noticed his speed and he played good defense. THen off the rush, he was able to attack and get a couple looks, a couple opportunities. I thought they did a good job, I thought he played well.”

Not only that, his presence on and off the ice rubbed off on his teammates, who fed off that energy that he brings to the table.

“He’s flying out there, every time he gets some space, it’s like, he just takes off,” Tom Wilson said of AJF, adding, “he’s an awesome kid. He comes in, he does his thing. Fun to be around. That work ethic, you know, is noticeable. That’s all you can really ask for from a guy that’s coming in and just making an impact every shift he’s out there. It’s noticeable. It’s contagious. He’s working hard and he’s got some pretty sneaky skill out there… it’s fun to have him up.”

Going forward, AJF hopes to continue making an impact as he fills in for Hagelin, a player he mentioned that he models his game after.

“I’ve been looking up to Carl, you know when I was younger and also now,” he said earlier in the year. “That’s the type of player I’m trying to be.”

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