Photo credit: Chris Gordon

When the Washington Capitals let Alex Semin walk last summer, they left a big hole in their top six. That hole has not been permanently filled yet, but there are two talented draft picks who might be a good fit in the future: Evgeny Kuznetsov and Filip Forsberg.

While Kuznetsov is still more than a full season away, Forsberg could be donning a Washington Capitals or Hershey Bears jersey as soon as this year.

A few weeks ago, when restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly signed an offer sheet with the Calgary Flames, it almost set off a bizarre series of events, revealing how convoluted the NHL’s waiver process is. Since O’Reilly played two games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk after the NHL lockout had ended, the 22-year-old center would have had to go through waivers before joining the Flames. Instead, the Avalanche matched Calgary’s offer sheet and he immediately joined the team.

Forsberg’s situation is much different.

While the 18-year-old Swedish prospect played in 38 games for Leksands IF of the second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan league (half of which played during the NHL season), a Capitals spokesman confirmed he is eligible to come over this year because of something called a European Loan.

“Forsberg is under NHL contract and on assignment to his Swedish team,” the spokesman said. “He is eligible to come over mid-season to play for Capitals or Bears sometime after his season is over in April.”

The three-year entry-level contract that Forsberg signed with the Capitals during Development Camp in July put the Capitals in the driver’s seat regarding when he’d start his professional career in North America. Once Leksands IF’s participation in the Kvalserien ends in a few weeks (a ten game round-robin tournament which determines which teams play in the Elitserien), it’s decision time for George McPhee.

The Capitals could opt for Forsberg to stay at home, rest, and prepare for his second Caps development camp in July. They could also have him join the AHL’s Hershey Bears, a move once made for John Carlson. On November 13, 2008, Carlson signed his ELC and then was loaned to Dale Hunter’s London Knights. Following the OHL playoffs, Carlson joined Hershey during their playoff run and played in 16 games. Because he was in the minors, Carlson did not lose the first year of his entry-level contract.

McPhee also could have Forsberg join the Capitals. While Washington’s roster is cramped right now, the NHL trade deadline is coming on April 5. A transaction before then could open up a spot for the young Swede on the roster. Forsberg can play in only five games — including the playoffs — before burning a year of his entry-level deal, which is exactly what happened with Chris Kreider and the New York Rangers last season. While Forsberg could gain some invaluable experience with the team during their march towards the playoffs, it’d be a waste of his cheap entry-level deal.

This is a big decision for McPhee. Forsberg, who was named the HockeyAllsvenskan’s best under-20 player of the year and an All-Star at the 2013 World Junior Championships, is a very talented forward. His development — along with Kuznetsov’s — could make or break a Capitals’ Stanley Cup run.

Forsberg’s forechecking and defense is what makes him stepping into the NHL as a teenager a possibility. During Development Camp last summer, Forsberg blocked two shots during the final scrimmage of the week, impressing his coaches.

“After seeing him at Development Camp and World Juniors as well, I think he’s a pretty complete player,” Hershey Bears head coach Mark French told me on a phone call last month. “A lot of the Swedish players seem to be pretty well-rounded.

“I think he has tremendous upside as a two-way guy. You see his god-given skill that he has. He has the ability to make big plays with the puck at high speeds every time he’s on the ice. If it’s a physical game or he needs to play defensively, he seems to be able to answer the bell. I’m not sure we’ll ever get the chance to coach him here [in Hershey]. He looks like he’s pretty NHL ready.”

He’s not the only guy who believes in him.

Michael Raffl is Forsberg’s teammate on Leksands.

Additional reporting by Fedor Fedin.

Tagged with:
  • why do we need this forsberg kid when we’ve got aaron volpatti? hit me up on sportsyapper to continue this discussion…

  • Only if you supply bud light platinum.

  • iwearstripes

    I’d favor assigning him to Hershey for the remainder of the season. I think the organization did Johansson a disservice by rushing him to the NHL. Baby steps. Let him adjust to NHL ice before we make him adjust to NHL speed. With a player this talented, it’s even more important to develop him the right way.

  • Absolutely. Hershey is where he’ll learn how to take north american style faceoffs and deal with those obnoxious and totally awful north american refs. Plus he won’t burn a year of his ELC.

  • I have a feeling the Caps will go all-in for the playoffs and have Forsberg spend the rest of the year in Hershey.

  • I agree with you about Johansson. They did rush him and he would have benefitted with some time in the AHL.The thing about Forsberg is that he’s a much different player than Marcus is. He already can forecheck; he can play defense. He’s good at the things that holds Johansson back from being a better player. There’s obviously going to be an adjustment period for Filip — players in North America are more physical, the rinks are smaller — but I think he could play this year if the Caps really needed him. I think it would be the right thing at the right time for him.

  • iwearstripes

    He had a good primer on obnoxious and totally awful north american ref at development camp last summer!

  • iwearstripes

    He may well be ready. I’d feel a little more confident if he had been playing in Elitserien instead of Allsvenskan.

  • He can come to Hershey. We will show him how awesome North American fans are!

  • Sure. That’s a great point. Leksands was however the HockeyAllsvenskan champions this season though. So at least they dominated.

  • scott

    Assign him to hersey, and wait till next year after the olympics when kuzya comes over and bring them up at the same time, get some 2nd line chemistry going with them.

    But then again thats assuming the caps arent big sellers come trade deadline. Please keep riberio that 2nd will be their saving grace down the stretch.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    I would not be a fan of having Forsberg be called up to either just get 3rd/4th line minutes, or be forced with the expectation of performing as a 1st/2nd line player so soon. Best bet is to have him play in Hershey this season. Same goes for Tom Wilson. Would rather he got a full season in Hershey next year. Patience, and Proper Development is key and that is the 2nd thing this organization screws up in next to having McPhee as GM.

    To hand him credit though, those two are great players, but don’t want to see them in the NHL so soon.

  • Yv

    Forsberg and Kuzzya will make Caps very relevant in new tough division. Hopefully, if invited to summer camp, Kuzzya will also sign there his ELC or, at-most, during Olympic games. Beside speed, reflected in winning KHL all-star skating competition, and being a sharp shooter, it should be noted that Kuz already playing a lot of minutes in PK and has several SHGs. To have these two all around players in Caps uniform would be something to watch in years to come.

  • I find it interesting that you say GMGM “screws up” when he built our farm system. Look at Carlson, Alzner, Holtby, Neuvi, Kundratek, Orlov , and Oleksy (though new this year to Hershey). All of these players are fast becoming staples of the team as well as young up and comings while having already completed time in our Farm system. You make this sound as though he does not have either “patience” or knows what “proper development” is when we call up our younger talent and yet when injuries happen that is what the farm system is for. In each of these cases they have proven while up that they would eventually be in the Red. We have even had some decent flashes from Grubi should we eventually trade Neuvi.

    All the angst against McFree I will never understand. People cry “he didn’t build a winner” but look at what the team has accomplished since we got Ted and Ovi.

    *on Foresberg I’d like to see him in Hershey after the year and stay there so he can get time in our system before we would try to use him with the Capitals. While great though he may be he would start off much stronger if he already had some idea of how Oates’ system played instead of the Swedish styles.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    We respectfully disagree, but McPhee has done more harm than good to this team in his 15+ years in my opinion. Carlson, Alzner are on their best days, a 2nd pairing of Defenseman in contrast to the #1+#2 they were made out to be. Goalies I will give him credit on, but then again, McPhee has never gotten us that #1/2 shut down D-man we’ve long needed. Took him long enough to get us a #2 center. We don’t know anything about Orlov yet.

    And exactly what has this team accomplished since Ted took over? Nothing more than when Poile was GM. Ovie is indeed a game-changing player.