Washington Capitals prospect Axel Jonsson-Fjallby has reenergized his drive to play in the NHL someday. He recently completed his best season in the AHL, and as a result, signed a new two-year deal with the Capitals.
“Last season was my best so far over there and they were very happy with me. I wanted to give it another chance,” he recently told hockeysverige.se.”
“I have had a contract (with Washington) for three years, but I have not yet played a full season in Hershey. The first season I played 16 games before I went home. The season after that came covid just before the playoffs and this year it was not a full season,” said Jonsson-Fjällby.
”In total, maybe you can say that I have been there for a season and a half. There have been around 110 games. I feel like I’ve really developed and learned that kind of hockey during the season.”
The following is a translation of excerpts from his recent interview with HockeySverige.Se:
Throughout his time at Hershey, Jonsson Fjällby has had a good dialogue with coach Spencer Carbery about how he should continue to develop as a player.
“I talked to the coach after the season about when I got there for the first time. There are many small details they look at, which you may not do in Sweden in the same way, considering that you have less time with the puck because it is a smaller rink. You have to be faster and make the right decision.”
Have you benefited from your skating in the AHL, considering that much of the game there is about quick changes?
“The first two seasons, I did not think at all that I used what I should. I thought I was going and going, but never really got to any good locations.”
“This season, it has felt like I have found good locations. “When should I take it easy? When should I go? ” Then I also got quite a lot of free positions, much like when I played in Sweden.”
You have a relatively young coach in Spencer Carbery. He was only 36 years old when you first came to Hershey, how did it work?
“Spencer Carbery is the most ambitious coach I have met. He is a “workaholic”. My girlfriend talked to his wife at a game. She said he was on the rink at four in the morning to check every detail on video.”
“I do not know how much of it is true, but I noticed that he works really hard, really wanted a lot and to make everyone on the team better. I think he’s good.”
Hershey Bears is a classic organization and one of the few clubs that have brown game jerseys. The first Swede in the club is said to have been Bosse Berglund who played there in the 1985/86 season.
“We play in an arena built in 2002. Sometimes we train in the old arena (Hershey Park) which is almost 90 years old. There are historical pictures and everything that can be. They even have a table set up from the 1930s that says how Hershey was.”
“They also have very good fans and there is a lot of interest in the team. Now I do not really know how big Hershey itself is, but people come from smaller places around to watch the games.”
“Among other things, we always played early at home on Sundays because then all pensioners could come and check. Then it was always crowded and a good audience. Most of the time we had over 10,000 spectators.”
The 23-year-old from Värmdö has enjoyed himself well outside the rink in Hershey.
“Hershey is definitely a good place to live. Many AHL places may be located where there is a bit more crime and so on, but Hershey feels very calm.”
“My girlfriend is also there and she works remotely, but also studies at the university so she has a lot to do.”
Everyone in the Hershey Bears aims to take a place in the NHL, which of course can create a different competitive situation.
“I would not say that team cohesion is like in Sweden, but it is understandable as well. Everyone wants to take the step up so you become competitors even if you are a player on the same team. So I really think it’s throughout the AHL.”
Do you thrive in such an environment?
“Yes, I have no problem with that. Of course you treat each other to respect and all that anyway. If you play in the SHL, you are already on the team, so is it in the NHL, and then you just want to win.”
“In Hershey, there was hardly any veteran who was re-called so we actually always had the same team. In other teams, it might be people up and down all the time. Then it will not be quite the same, but we got a good cohesion. That was probably because basically everyone was there throughout the season.”
You started the last season in Västervik, what did the time there mean for you?
“It was great to play there. Emil Georgsson and Mattias Karlin took very good care of me. By the time I got to Hershey, I had already played 26 games while the others had only run summer training.”
Did you notice it when you came over?
“Yes, yes… I felt more in match form, which I felt most in the first games. When everyone had then started, it was as usual. I think it was very useful for me to come to Västervik and get a few matches in the bag.”
Last season, Jonsson Fjällby accounted for ten goals and a total of 15 points in 31 games with Hershey.
“The coach is on me to shoot more, says the Washington-drafted 23-year-old with a laugh and continues:
“I have been too selfless when I should not be. When I had good shooting positions, I hit a pass instead. This year I shot more and there have also been more goals.”
Are the details, the shot and the timing what you mainly developed last season?
“Yes, I would probably say that. Especially these small details that we talked about earlier. To get the puck and make the right decision. I have developed much more like this.
“At first I probably did not think it was so important, but when it is such a small rink and tight games, it feels like that is what decides. If you get the puck out, it might be a two-on-one. You can not get the puck out while the whole team is moving forward… Those parts are what I have developed the most, but also the shot and use the speed in the right way.”
Despite Axel Jonsson Fjällby not playing an NHL game in three seasons, Washington recently chose to sign a new two-year contract with him.
“Washington is one of the most difficult teams to get into considering what players they have and all that.”
“Last season was my best so far over there and they were very happy with me. Then I wanted to give it another chance and not give up yet.”
Have they said anything about your future, where will you start next season?
“No, I have to make sure to be ready when the camp starts and do my best there. Hopefully they see something in me.”
If you’re going to start in the AHL again, how will you reason then?
“Then it’s just pushing me on there, doing my best and fighting to be called.”
Now maybe you’ll get a full season in the US, what do you think that will mean for you?
“I like to play playoffs, but I have not played any playoff games over there yet, so I absolutely think it would be important.”
How do you think the jumping between countries and clubs in recent seasons has affected your development?
“The first turn over was a bit difficult. I had been in Djurgården since U16. When I went over, I was set on only being part of the camp and then coming back to Djurgården. Now it did not happen.”
“It was a bit hard mentally to stay, stay in a hotel and not really know when I would go back. When I came back it was in the middle of a season. Getting into a basically new team during a season was not something I was used to.”
When are you going over to Washington again?
“I have not booked anything yet, but the camp starts a little later. I think it’s in the middle or end of September. It will probably be that I go over a few weeks before so I can train a bit there and get into it before the camp starts, instead of coming the day before it starts.”
And the goal is to take a jersey from the start?
“Yes, that is of course the goal,”
By Jon Sorensen