Can Christian Djoos Become the Next Mattias Ekholm?: A Swedish Article on the Capitals’ Young Defenseman

50a7639Before this season, Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos was highly-touted among many within the organization as one of the team’s brightest defensive prospects. In this translated article by Måns Karlsson of the Swedish website Karlsson talks about Djoos’ development and his potential ability to that of Nashville Predators’ defenseman Mattias Ekholm.

Five Swedes are going to the Stanley Cup Final this season. The duel between star centers, Nicklas Backstrom and William Karlsson could possibly determine who wins the Stanley Cup Final series this year. But what’s fun in this year’s final is there will be at least two new Swedish players who have never won the Cup and that neither team has won the Cup in their history.  Some new Swedish names will be engraved on the mythical trophy.

Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson, Bäckström and André Burakovsky are all well-known names for the Swedish Ice Hockey audience.  Christian Djoos has been mentioned, but I think there are many who still do not know that he even plays in the NHL. He does not record a lot of points, he does not play on the powerplay, he plays around 10, 15 minutes per game and does not make any difference. And if I’m honest, I think Barry Trotz ties his hand in his pocket and cheers quietly for himself as long as it continues to be so. Djoos makes almost no mistakes. He does not undo himself unnecessarily.

Small Puck-Moving Defenseman

To play as a rookie as a smallish defenseman and be a Top 6 defenseman on a team that plays in the Stanley Cup Final, when drafted as a seventh-rounder in the NHL Entry Draft a few years earlier, is terribly impressive. There are really no other requirements than “Enter, play easily, do not get rid of yourself. Can you get the puck out of your own zone, it’s great too …”  And that’s exactly what Christian Djoos does. When I talked to him last summer, he would “try to play in NHL”.  Now he will play in the Stanley Cup Final.

“It’s hard for them to guarantee or promise a place to me, so it’s not working properly”, Djoos said. “But I want to hear that they want to keep investing in one, and that they believe in me.”  His goal at the that time was to try to make the NHL.

I have followed him since he broke into hockey with Brynäs A team and saw a small, but talented defenseman with an enormous offensive talent, which he did not really get to show in SHL at that time. Brynäs hoped that Djoos could replace Ryan Gunderson on defense right away and, of course, it did not work. But I think everyone felt that there was so much ice hockey in that boy that would eventually come out.

Unexpected Greatness

But nobody expected Christian Djoos to be a player who could earn nearly one point per game in the AHL, who would later get a two-year contract of Washington, but that’s exactly what Djoos did. The fact is that with any other club, he had a chance to play in the NHL last year.

I’ll be honest: I thought he’d be back in Brynäs by now.  I thought his relatively light body would be too light for playing in North America and that he would never get that offensive role he would need. And I think I’m right in the second part. The offensive role he probably will not get. But I had such a bad feeling about the first part. Even when I interviewed Djoos after the first training camp in 2014, I should have guessed that he would be an NHL player.

“I’m not so damn big, but they [Capitals] thought I played smartly and used my head,” Djoos said.

Another article on Djoos by Karlsson in 2017

Barry Trotz Suggested Similarities to Mattias Ekholm

So, what are the similarities with Mattias Ekholm? When Mattias Ekholm came to Brynäs, he was a defenseman who immediately became SHL’s best, offensively.  Defensively?  In that area, he was not the best in the SHL.  The mistakes were resolved. Despite that, he started the next season in Nashville. He lasted just two games.  Then he was sent home to Brynäs again with Barry Trotz’s words ringing in his ears.

Trotz said, “He was terrible. He was absolutely terrible.”

Ekholm remained in the SHL for that season,which ended with SM gold and the Salming Trophy.  After that, he then spent one year in the AHL before finally joining the NHL.  I thought after that year in the AHL that Ekholm might never be an NHL defenseman. Now, five years later, he is a defenseman who is not very far from belonging in the absolute world elite. And that offensive super defenseman we saw in the SHL has been replaced by a defensive player who is playing out of situations. That is completely obvious and safe. And, of course, can still deliver offense too.

Christian Djoos has taken a role on the third-pairing in Washington. His role is to play easily. To win the loose pucks. To play evenly with opponents. And then we will remember that it is still his first year in the NHL. That he should still be able to add a few kilograms to that still pretty-minded body. He will not match Ekholm’s weight, of course. Being as good as Mattias Ekholm is also difficult, to express it mildly. But an offensively giant talent can be a two-way elite defenseman even in Djoos’ case.

 Can Be Developed Under Barry Trotz

Barry Trotz called Mattias Ekholm “horrible”, but then developed him for a year before leaving for Washington. That is not to say that he will not be able to do the same with Djoos, provided Trotz stays in Washington even after the Stanley Cup Final.

In that case, we have a new Swedish elite two-way defenseman.  An NHL-caliber defenseman who I thought would already have been sent home from North America at this time.

I’m incredibly glad I was wrong.

Related Links
News and Notes from Thursday’s Gameday Morning Skate: Will Christian Djoos Play Tonight?
Meet and Greet With Burakovsky and Djoos

Christian Djoos Plays His First NHL Game, Makes an Immediate Impact
What’s The Skinny On Christian Djoos’ Weight?

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About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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