When it comes to scoring, AHL Hershey can count on veterans such as Michael Sgarbossa, Travis Boyd and Matt Moulson. When it comes to development, however, one of the Bears’ most important players is right winger Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
The 21-year-old spent 16 games with the Bears last season before returning home to Sweden, where he helped
Djurgarden make it to the SHL final. Now, he’s back in Hershey for good, learning how to play on the smaller ice. Interestingly enough, while the adjustment is always a little tricky for European-trained players,
Jonsson-Fjallby’s speed and rugged game are perfect for North America. “I like the smaller rink,” he said. “I like to skate, that’s pretty much what I can do, so I’m adjusting. Every game feels better.”
Jonsson-Fjallby, who was drafted 147th overall by Washington in 2016, has some promising tools to work with, and Hershey’s braintrust is happy to help the kid maximize them. “He’s an elite skater, straight-line,” said coach Spencer Carbery. “That benefits the team in his forecheck pressure, getting after ‘D’ and trying to attack off the rush. That’s his biggest weapon that he has to use consistently, and it can make a difference when he’s going.”
The hard-hitting winger got off to a solid start offensively with four goals and five points in nine games, but Carbery believes Jonsson-Fjallby can get even better with some help. “One is reading the game,” the coach said. “There are certain things in the North American game that he has to get ingrained. The second is his puck skills, and he’ll be the first to admit it. He does have a good shot, but we’ll work with him on handling pucks in tight, off the rush and making a few more plays to give himself a few more opportunities to score.”
Off the ice, Jonsson-Fjallby was going through the typical motions of getting a car and finding a place to live in a foreign country, but the local specialty hadn’t quite converted him yet. He’s sticking with
Marabou chocolate over Hershey’s. “To be honest, in my opinion, you can’t even compare it,” Jonsson-Fjallby said. “Swedish chocolate is better, but I like Hershey as a town.”
And Hershey loves its Bears. The team has been an institution for decades, and because of that, development and winning must be balanced. Carbery seems to have the right attitude in his coaching techniques to make sure both happen, and if Jonsson-Fjallby can continue to grow his game in North America, he’ll be contributing to the big club in Washington in the near future.
Jonsson-Fjallby isn’t the only Euro freshman making noise in the AHL
Lucas Elvenes – Chicago Wolves, C
Drafted: 127th in 2017 (VEG)
A big-time playmaker, Elvenes put up solid numbers in the SHL the past two seasons. But the Swede has really taken the North American game by storm, leading the AHL in scoring with 18 points through 12 games.
Igor Shesterkin – Hartford Wolfpack, G
Drafted: 118th in 2014 (NYR)
After accomplishing pretty much everything back home in Russia, Shesterkin is finally over here, and once again he’s dominating. He’s got an impressive battery going with fellow Euro rookie Adam Huska.
Lean Bergmann – San Jose Barracuda, LW
Acquired: Signed as free agent (SJ)
The big-bodied German power forward had some previous North American experience in the USHL before going to the DEL. Now he’s an NHL tweener who has been better than a point-per-gamer with the Barracuda.
Moritz Seider – Grand Rapids Griffins, D
Drafted: 6th in 2019 (DET)
He made a ton of fans with his tour-de-force performance at the Traverse City rookie tourney. Now the German defender is playing solid, two-way hockey in Grand Rapids. Not bad for an 18-year-old who was the shock of the draft.
Tobias Bjornfot – Ontario Reign, D
Drafted: 22nd in 2019 (LA)
Raised a lot of eyebrows in Los Angeles by making the Kings out of camp. Now the solid, two-way Swede is in the ‘A’ where he can develop properly. A future leader, Bjornfot had four points in his first six games with the Reign.