- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2011

Marcus Johansson was a revelation for the Capitals in his rookie season. The team didn’t go far in trying to find another center who might be able to make the same impact, inking 23-year-old Mattias Sjogren.

Sjogren grew up with Johansson in Sweden and spent a lot of time this past year talking to his friend about life and hockey in Washington. They spoke again for 10 minutes Thursday, a day after the Caps announced Sjogren’s signing.

“During the season, I talked to him at the time that Washington showed interest in me,” Sjogren said Thursday in a telephone interview from Sweden. “I’ve been asking him a lot of questions, and it’s a lot of positive things.”

It would be a major positive for the Caps if Sjogren can imitate Johansson as a rookie. Johansson had 13 goals and 14 assists at the age of 20, and Sjogren might be even more NHL-ready now after three seasons in the Swedish Elite League and a solid performance at the world championships last month.

Sjogren said the Caps see him as a third- or fourth-line center next season.

“They want to give me the chance, and it’s up to me to take it,” Sjogren said. “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.”

Sjogren hasn’t talked to the team yet about playing for Hershey of the American Hockey League if he doesn’t make the roster out of training camp, and he won’t be in Arlington for prospect camp next month.

But judging from the level of interest from NHL teams, it might not be an issue. Two Swedish newspapers reported 12 clubs were interested in signing Sjogren, and while he said he wasn’t sure there were that many, he had a choice to make.

“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.”

Ultimately, Sjogren chose the Caps and has a good chance of following Johansson’s lead in his rookie year.

NOTE: The Caps made a minor trade Thursday, dealing a conditional seventh-rounder in 2013 to Nashville for left wing Taylor Stefishen, who spent last year in the Western Hockey League.

• Stephen Whyno can be reached at swhyno@washingtontimes.com.

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