If there's one person who's NOT going to have their dreams crushed gently, though, it's either Cody Eakin or Mattias Sjogren. Word out of camp this year is that there's one roster slot available, max--problem being that as always in this lovely, competitive sport, there's more than one player who wants it. Battle for the Fourth Line, Round One...FIGHT.
Don't get me wrong. I like Cody Eakin. He's young, he's quick, he's a hard worker and he doesn't give up--plus, he is ginger as all hell and that's always a plus in my mind.
Look at that hair. He could practically be one of my cousins.
All gingerness/eagerness aside though, Eakin is not my horse in the race.
This guy is. I am firmly Team Sjogren, and I will tell you why.
It starts with the basics: 6'2, 215 lbs, and when asked to describe his game, he said "I like to hit."
Yep. You read that right. While it's well known that the Caps are big on the Swedishness, it tends to be more of the soft-hands playmaking kind of Swedishness, a la Johansson and Backstrom. This guy doesn't have quite the same scoring touch--7 goals, 17 assists last year, which is not bad at all, but his main skills seem to lie elsewhere. Namely, hits. Sjogren is tough--he's been playing in the Swedish Elite League for the last few years, with the experienced players--once challenged a 28-year-old to a fight. And won. He plays the body a lot, to the point where some of his hits are borderline dirty at times, but I haven't seen anything that would get him suspended, and let's face it--we really need someone like that. Teams need to be more scared of us, physically, and if you can find a guy who can play hockey and can hipcheck opponents into next week, you hang onto them. He hasn't even been afraid to outmuscle Eakin in development camps--this is a guy who knows who his competition is.
A disclaimer: most of this optimism is sight-unseen, beyond some Youtubing and scouting reports, I don't know what this guy's game looks like firsthand. That said, the same can be said about Eakin, and I just like the sound of this guy better. I want to believe that he'll be ready--we're lucky with our roster this year, we don't need him to fill huge holes or take on responsibility that he can't handle. If he's the kind of player I'm judging him to be, he'll be a fantastic small-role player on the kind of team we're looking to build. Our scouts are good at picking out diamonds in the rough--GMGM approves of him, and if you want any more validation, multiple teams were apparently pursuing him, possibly as many as ten--it's not just us that saw something there. That's good enough for me. Team Sjogren.
"If you want lingonberries for jam, you go to the forest. If you want Volvos, you go to the factory. If you want goals, you go to the net."
Asked if he has something to prove: "No, you don't do that. You work your ass off every day to make the team and see what happens."
Possible flies in the ointment of my dreams:
- Always tricky to adjust between European rink size and North American rink size. MoJo managed to get the hang of it pretty quick, but there would definitely be an adjustment period.
- His contract versus Eakin's teeny tiny entry-level contract. On a cap-pushing team like the Capitals right now, it could make a difference.
- Worst case scenario, maybe he's not nearly as good as I'm making him out to be. Maybe he's a junior leagues player, emergency call-up kind of guy.
Best case scenario:
A solid third or fourth liner who hits like a truck, puts up some assists, and provides us some of that grit we've been looking for. Flyers vs. Caps rookie exhibition game is tonight. Show me something.