Like many top prospects in the NHL, the initial buzz surrounding winger Axel Jonsson-Fjallby was very enthusiastic. And why not? The Capitals 5th round draft pick in 2016 showed top-level speed and a very deceptive shot. The raw skills were very apparent.
The “Swedish Lightening Bolt”, as he was known in Sweden, also showed excellent promise while playing for Djurgarden in the Swedish Hockey league (SHL). The question was, would he ever commit to playing in North America?
Jonsson-Fjallby admitted he wasn’t sure if he was ready to make the jump across the pond, but ultimately, he eventually wanted to test the waters. “I have to know if I’m ready for North America or need a [another] season in Sweden,” said Jonsson-Fjallby.
Early on, Jonsson-Fjallby showed promise, but there were questions about his commitment to playing hockey in North America. He would ultimately exercise a contract option and return to the Djurgarden after playing just 16 games with the Bears his rookie season.
However, few knew Jonsson-Fjallby felt he had unfinished business in Sweden and that he had made a commitment to himself to win a title with Djurgarden. He would come one game short of winning the SHL title with Djurgarden in 2018-19 before shifting his focus to North America. He was fully committed to making a run at a spot on the Capitals roster.
Jonsson-Fjallby’s second season in Hershey was solid, recording 12 goals and 11 assists in just 61 games. He would stay until the season was halted due to the pandemic and then stay conditioned playing for Vasterviks IF last fall during the pandemic hiatus. He was ready for his third season in the AHL.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 22, 2021
You could see the difference in his game this season. Jonssson-Fjallby recorded 10 goals and five assists in just 31 games, nearly matching his career highs in just half the games. But it was the little things in his game that began to standout. His puck battles, play in tight spaces and along the boards, often the biggest challenges for European players transitioning to North American rink sizes, had shown vast improvement this season.
But for Bears head coach Spencer Carbery, the message to Axel this season was very simple. Shoot the puck.
“He’s got a phenomenal shot. He doesn’t use it enough. And he loves to pass,” said Carbery following a Bears game back in March. “He loves to try to make passes when he should be shoot first, shoot first, shoot first. Because it’s hard to pick up. His release is difficult to pick up. And our goaltending coach Alex Westlund and I have had conversations. His shot, it has movement on it. It’s like that fastball that moves. So we just continue, shoot, shoot, shoot.”
Axel received the message, loud and clear.
“The coach is on me to shoot more,” said Jonsson-Fjallby to hockeysverige.se. “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.”
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) March 6, 2021
Axel, who turned 23 in February, feels he is on the right track.
“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.” Jonsson-Fjallby signed a two-year contract extension back on June 7.
“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.”
Jonaason-Fjallby is poised to make a run at a potential roster spot with the Capitals. He will likely begin the season in Hershey, and may play the year there, but his development trajectory could have him playing a bottom six winger spot for the Capitals in the very near future.
By Jon Sorensen
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