On June 1, the Washington Capitals announced the signing of 23-year old Swedish center Mattias Sjogren. CapGeek.com is reporting the entry-level deal is worth $1.8 million over 2 years. Standing 6’2, 214, Sjögren is, according to EliteProspects.com: “A big and strong forward. Sjögren likes to play physical and has good timing in his hits. He is also a very creative player with fine technical skills. A decent scorer and playmaker.”
The Washington Post reported that Sjögren had several other NHL suitors, but that Washington was his first choice. “I liked everything when I came over. I saw the training facility, the arena, the coach. I knew I wanted more of a challenge this season and I could see myself in Washington.”
Sjögren recently completed his third season in the Swedish Elite League [Elitserien], setting career highs in assists (17) and points (24) in 51 games with Farjestads BK Karlstad. Sjögren posted another goal and 9 points in 13 playoff games as Färjestads won the League Title. He was the team’s sixth-leading scorer in both the regular season and the playoffs. During the season, Sjogren competed in the 4 Euro-Hockey Tour tournaments, which consist of 4-day, 3-game round-robin mini-tournaments against teams from Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic. He posted 2 goals and 5 points in 12 games as Sweden finished second overall. After completing his Elite League season, he joined the Swedish national team in the IIHF World Championships in Bratislava, posting 4 points in 9 games as Sweden took home the silver medal. His lone goal was a game-winner, part of a 3-point performance against the United States. That concluded an extra long season, as Sjögren also helped Färjestads to the semi-final of the European Trophy in August, posting 2 goals and 4 points in 11 games. All told, Sjögren posted 13 goals and 48 points in 96 professional and tournament games between August and May.
A self-described “two-way center,” Sjögren said, “they’re looking for a third- or fourth-line center, and my goal is to take one of those spots…I’m a little bit more defensive and, I think, a hard worker…I know it’s going to be tough to compete for one of those two spots…I know I have to be humble, but I hope I can get a chance to prove what I can do.” -The Washington Post
With all of the free agents at center for the Caps, Sjögren would certainly fit in nicely at third or fourth-line center. Jason Arnott, Boyd Gordon, and Brooks Laich are all unrestricted free agents, as are wingers Marco Sturm and Matt Bradley, which means one of them is being replaced with this signing. Sjögren would be a great fit to play alongside a winger like Eric Fehr, as he is a physical presence with good passing ability. There should be no concerns about his durability, but like any European rookie, he would simply need to adjust to the smaller ice surface and the pace of play, which should not take him long.
A late-bloomer, Sjögren was never drafted by an NHL club. He grew up in Landskrona, the same home-town as Caps center Marcus Johansson and his older brother, Martin Johansson, and Martin and Sjögren were born just 34 days apart in 1987. When asked about Marcus Johansson, he replied, “He’s helped. He had a lot of positive things to say about the team.” -The Washington Post
Starting at age 17, Sjögren played 3 professional seasons for Rogle BK Angelholm in the Hockey Allsvenskan, the second-tier league. In his first two seasons, Sjögren posted singularly unimpressive numbers both in the regular season (1 goal, 6 points in 85 games) and in the qualification tournament (3 assists in 20 games). In his third season, Sjögren began producing respectable offensive numbers, with 4 goals and 14 points in 45 games. In his third try, he helped Rögle win a spot in the Elite League through the qualification tournament, posting 4 goals and 6 points in 10 games. In his first regular season in the Elite League, Sjögren posted 6 goals and 13 points in 43 games. Unfortunately, Rögle failed to qualify for the playoffs in their two years in the Elite League and Sjögren was forced to play in the relegation tournament for two more seasons. In 10 games, Sjögren scored 4 goals and 6 points as Rögle fought to stay in the Elite League at all, managing to stay alive for 2009-10. As a 21-year old, Sjögren wore the Alternate Captain’s “A” for Rögle as he posted 11 goals and 22 points in 54 games, but he left for Färjesatds as Rogle was relegated back to the Allsvenskan for the 2010-11 season, despite Sjögren leading the team with 9 points in 10 relegation games. His regular season totals in the Elitserien were 24 goals and 59 points in 148 games.
Parts of this story were taken from The Washington Post, EliteProspects.com, IIHF.com. swehockey.se, and WashingtonCaps.com.