As the Washington Capitals continue to battle through injuries and adversity, they’ll see another NHL debut — and another all-rookie line — take the ice for a tilt with the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby will play in his first career NHL game against his former team. Buffalo claimed him off waivers on Oct. 4 and had him for six days before placing him on waivers again, where the Capitals reclaimed him and assigned him to the AHL’s Hershey Bears. AJF said on Monday that he was actually in a moving truck and ready to pick up his furniture for his new apartment when he got the call that he got re-claimed.
“That was weird,” Jonsson-Fjallby said of his small tenure with the Sabres. “I had two practices that week since I couldn’t play the games and then yeah, I went back.”
Through nine games this season, Jonsson-Fjallby has been solid, dishing three goals and seven points. Head coach Peter Laviolette said the decision to call up the 2016 fifth-rounder was based on his play and position.
“I like his speed, like the fact that he gets on pucks, gets on the forecheck,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He’s putting up points down in the American Hockey League, somewhat responsible defensively, so a lot of positives.”
READ MORE ON WHN: How Conor Sheary Has Emerged As Key Piece Of Capitals Lineup
AJF will slot in on an all-freshman fourth line for Washington with Connor McMichael and Brett Leason, who he skated with on a line with Aliaksei Protas to open 2021-22 in Hershey. McMichael and Leason have had solid chemistry, with McMichael picking up points in back-to-back games and Leason netting two goals and three points in four games since his call-up. Hendrix Lapierre will be the healthy scratch on the forward lines.
Despite the challenge of having young players fill in for top-6 guys, Laviolette said it’s time to put the “kid” label behind them.
“These guys got to move on from being rookies and they got to move on to being impact players… I also trust all three players after watching Connor play center and Leason play the wing, it grows a little bit of trust with them and how they play the game defensively. So they both seem to understand the game [and] from what I understand from conversations with the Hershey coaches, Axel does the same thing. He’s a smart player and he’s fast and he gets on pucks and he knows how to defend. So we’ll look to start here.”
Ultimately, Jonsson-Fjallby sees a big opportunity ahead of him and is ready to play his game, which he compares to teammate Carl Hagelin.
“I feel comfortable for sure… I got some confidence and it’s fun for that to be acknowledged and to get trust.”
Here’s what the Capitals’ lines look like:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Conor Sheary-Lars Eller-Daniel Sprong
Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby-Connor McMichael-Brett Leason
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Vitek Vanecek was the first goaltender off the ice and will get the nod for the Capitals. He made 30 saves on 32 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Philly.