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Capitals Lost AJF & Leason To Waivers, But They Didn’t Make Mistake



Capitals forward Brett Leason

ARLINGTON, V.A. — The Washington Capitals didn’t make it through training camp without losing a couple of key pieces, as they lost two prospects in Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Brett Leason to the waiver wire, as the Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks claimed the respective forwards. However, there shouldn’t be any regret there or second-guesses about the final roster.

Obviously, not making it through waivers unscathed hurts the organizational depth and takes two talented players out of the system and away from the AHL’s Hershey Bears. However, there is still a lot of depth in the pool, and Washington did everything right with how it played out.

There wasn’t any way that Connor McMichael was going to be assigned to the Bears as he enters his sophomore season. The 21-year-old is someone who has shown potential as a top center and has established himself as a full-time NHLer.

And then, of course, there was Aliaksei Protas. No. 59 had an outstanding camp following a busy offseason that saw him get “faster and stronger,” as he said. He gained 10 pounds and is up to 6-6, 235 pounds. Protas also got faster and improved his speed and skating after hard work with a coach in Belarus.

“With every game, it doesn’t matter NHL or AHL, you gain experience,” Protas explained. “And for me, the main thing I found out, you got to be stronger in the battles everywhere. So I was focused on that.

“You got to be faster, you got to be, like, step faster everywhere… I work pretty much whole summer on that for sure, get my strides harder, get faster.”

READ MORE ON WHN: What To Know, Who To Watch & Who Did, Didn’t Make Washington Capitals Opening Night Roster

More than anything, Protas earned that spot. He appeared in every preseason game and had an outstanding run, dishing a goal and assist and averaging at least 15 minutes per game while getting a look at center and on the wing on the top-6 and bottom-6. The 21-year-old pretty much fits in anywhere, and he’s a versatile player who can play down the middle and do fine on the wing without issue.

Taking his ability into account, Protas made a lot of noise and earned that spot. He wasn’t the one who should have been sent down.

Jonsson-Fjallby went scoreless through two preseason games, while Leason notched an assist through three games. However, neither of them made too much noise, nor did they show a lot in camp that would prove they can be full-time NHLers.

Ultimately, even though McMichael and Protas are waiver-exempt, they outplayed the likes of AJF and Leason earned their spots. They shouldn’t have been reassigned solely based on the risk that comes with waivers.

RELATED: Washington Capitals Lose 2 To Waivers As Johansen, Borgstrom Clear

As for the team’s decision to bring back veterans such as Marcus Johansson — as well as the decision to not trade Lars Eller — and give them the minutes and roster spots rather than the young guys, Johansson brings more to the table than AJF and Leason. Sure, AJF brings speed, and Leason brings size. Johansson can play a solid defensive game and also logs time on PP2. He can also move up and down the lineup and is likely one of the options to help fill in for Carl Hagelin on the Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway line. His versatility and experience make him a player that fits in more than AJF and Leason. Eller also has more experience, is a veteran presence and had an inconsistent year in 2021-22, but was also dealing with COVID-19 and other issues. The Dane also still put up 30 points.

Not only that, but the move is also better for AJF and Leason. It’s a change of scenery for both. Jonsson-Fjallby has been with the club since going in the fifth round in the 2016 NHL Draft. He hadn’t been able to break into the NHL, and with the Jets, a fresh start may be a good move for him. The same goes for Leason with the Ducks as he looks to fit in with the big leagues after going in 2019 as an overager.

Overall, it’s unfortunate when a team loses two prospects for nothing in return. However, it was the necessary move to make room for the 23-man roster, and all of the picks were the right ones to go with.