Nicklas Backstrom – despite a rough 2011 playoff season – is still a star. Marcus Johansson is more mature on and off the ice than his age indicates and could be a great player in the making.
And if Mattias Sjogren turns out to be anything like them, the Capitals could be in excellent shape with their own trio of super Swedes. Sjogren could take a path very similar to the one his friend Johansson took as a rookie.
“They want to give me the chance and it’s up to me to take it,” Sjogren said in a telephone interview Thursday. “In Sweden I had a leading role and got a lot of ice time. It’s a tougher step in the NHL but I’m hoping I can be a third or fourth-line center.”
That’s what the Caps expect, he said. General manager George McPhee said in a statement Wednesday announcing the deal, “He is a big center who has developed very well over the past few seasons and is ready for a new challenge.”
Sjogren sounds more than ready. The 23-year-old was impressive in the IIHF World Hockey Championship last month and put up seven goals and 17 assists in his third Swedish Elite League season in 2010-11.
And he’s more than prepared for life in Washington. Sjogren grew up with Johansson in Sweden and started quizzing his friend as soon as the Caps showed interest.
“I’ve been asking him a lot of questions, and it’s a lot of positive things,” Sjogren said.
Having two countrymen around can’t be a bad thing, and Sjogren said he’d feel comfortable in the District. He hasn’t yet talked to the team about playing in Hershey of the AHL if he doesn’t make the team out of training camp.
But that’s not a concern right now. By all indications the Caps won something of a sweepstakes for Sjogren, as up to 12 NHL teams were interested in his services.
“There was a lot of interest. I had a lot of phone calls from teams,” Sjogren said. “I talked to my agent and we said, ‘Let’s narrow it down – Washington and Montreal.’ Montreal and Washington I think was great opportunity for me, both teams. I like everything about it. I decided Washington.”
Sjogren won’t be at prospect camp next month but plans to arrive in August. He’ll get his chance to show he’s ready for the NHL when real camp opens up in September.