Sabres Provide Jonsson-Fjallby with Great Opportunity After Waiver Claim

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby wasn’t allowed to be in limbo very long. After the Washington Capitals placed the young winger on waivers Sunday night, the Buffalo Sabres scooped him up before he could be assigned to the Capitals’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Depending on how fast the Sabres can develop him, Jonsson-Fjallby is a nice addition that could contend for a roster spot. He gets his opportunity tonight.

Sabres Get Good Prospect in Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

The Capitals are loaded at the forward level, and their prospect pool has been showing promise during the preseason. It’s not that Jonsson-Fjallby is a sub-par player, it’s more that Washington had some tough decisions to make in regard to their offense. Though they would have preferred the winger to remain in the system at Hershey, Buffalo jumped on the opportunity to claim him.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby

Jonsson-Fjallby, 23, was selected 147th overall in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Capitals. The 6-foot-1-inch, 192-pound Swedish forward has tremendous speed and was compared best to his countryman and ex-teammate Carl Hagelin. Scouting reports have shown that he does have a harder, more accurate shot, but Hagelin was no offensive slouch during his prime.

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby Hershey Bears
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby as a member of the Hershey Bears. The Buffalo Sabres claimed the forward off waivers on Sunday before he could return to Hershey (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In 2016-17, he made his professional debut with storied Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League. In 24 games, he only registered one assist and a minus-2 rating, but when he transferred to the J20 squad, he recorded 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 32 games. The forward had been in the Djurgardens system since 2013-14.

Jonsson-Fjallby signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Washington and joined Hershey in 2018. He has played decent for three AHL seasons, so far. In 108 games, he scored 24 goals and added 17 assists with a plus-9 rating.

2021-22 Preseason

Though Jonsson-Fjallby has no regular-season NHL experience, he did make two preseason appearances for the Capitals, last week. On Sep. 29 against the New Jersey Devils, the winger was on the ice for 12:08, including 57 seconds on the penalty kill—a service Hagelin has perfected with Washington. However, he finished the contest with a minus-1 rating and spent two minutes in the penalty box, but did had two shots on goal.

On Oct. 2, he was steady in the Capitals’ matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers. A bunch of zeroes across the stat sheet isn’t the most pretty of lines, but the best “nothing” to pay attention to was his rating. He skated a tad under two minutes less than his previous game (10:16) but spent a little more time on the penalty kill (1:11).

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Washington Capitals
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby skating for the Washington Capitals in a preseason match on Oct. 2. He was put on waivers the following day and claimed by Buffalo. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Yet, with the quality play of Hendrix Lapierre, Connor McMichael, Garrett Pilon, Aliaksei Protas, and Joe Snively for Washington, and those pretty decent names they already have skated around Capital One Arena, there wasn’t much room for Jonsson-Fjallby to stand out enough for an NHL roster spot. As mentioned, the Capitals would have preferred for the forward to make it back to Hershey, but the Sabres thought he would be a better fit in Buffalo.

Where Axel Jonsson-Fjallby fits in with the Sabres

Buffalo head coach Don Granato wants a good look at the winger right away. Jonsson-Fjallby is scheduled to skate in the Sabres’ preseason match tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET). Today, Buffalo assigned forwards Ryan MacInnis, Sean Malone, Matej Pekar, and Linus Weissbach to their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.

Jonsson-Fjallby is likely to be a third- or fourth-line forward who can serve on the penalty kill. Because of his speed and shot, he has the ability to score and contribute offensively, and possibly excite the crowd with some short-handed opportunities. His points-per-game average with Hershey had increased from .19 to .48 in his AHL three seasons, so he is showing progress.

Related: Buffalo Sabres 2021-22 Season Preview Section

The rebuild is still happening in Buffalo, so there are position battles aplenty. Jonsson-Fjallby is being thrown into the forward competition which is good for both the Sabres and the young Swede. He has the skillset and talent to make an NHL roster, especially considering Granato’s plea for more quickness and less hesitation from last night’s loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since Buffalo is trying to prepare for the future, the move may have placed him in the perfect opportunity to achieve that sooner rather than later.

With JJ Peterka’s solid preseason, the roster spots are slimming. Jonsson-Fjallby will have two chances to prove himself, if in the lineup, and then Buffalo will decide whether or not to assign him to Rochester. However, he would still have to pass through waivers which could allow the Capitals to snatch him back.

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