The Washington Capitals are coming off of a 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators full of individual errors and defensive miscues. After that poor performance, head coach Spencer Carbery said the team is searching for more defensive stability on its blueline.
The Capitals took the first step at trying to find that stability by recalling Swedish rearguard Hardy Haman Aktell on Thursday. At practice a day later, Haman Aktell lined up with veteran defender Trevor van Riemsdyk on the team’s third defense pairing and is set to make his NHL debut on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.
“We just felt like, diving into the numbers, that our bottom pair has had a real tough time in the first three games,” Carbery said. “We need some consistency there. We need something in that bottom pair that can give us reliable minutes and that’s what we’re looking for. Hardy had a great camp. We liked his exhibition games so we thought it would be a good opportunity for him to potentially get in the lineup.”
The Capitals have sent out two variations of a third pair three games into this season. The first featuring Lucas Johansen and Nick Jensen and the second featuring Jensen and Alex Alexeyev. As Carbery states, neither has been good.
Combined over the three games that pairing at five-on-five has been out-attempted 30 to 18, out-scoring chanced 12 to 7, and out-high danger chanced 4 to 2. To try and move on from that rough start, at Friday’s skate, Carbery moved Jensen up to the second pairing with his regular partner from last season Martin Fehervary.
Haman Aktell enters the picture on that much-maligned third pairing with TVR after getting into two games for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. There, he tallied his first career AHL goal and skated exclusively with the rugged Dylan McIlrath.
The 25-year-old Swede spoke with the media on Friday about that experience in Hershey. “I think it was good,” Haman Aktell said. “I played a lot. Two good games. It’s a quick league down there too so it was good for me to get a little bit more adjusted to the smaller rink and just good experience to be done there.”
Haman Aktell got into five of the Capitals’ preseason games and played the second-most minutes (97:21) of any Capitals player. He says that extended time on ice has allowed him to ease into the transition to smaller North American rinks.
“I got here pretty early before camp to get used to the smaller rink and I think it has gone really well,” Haman Aktell said. “[Play] goes a lot quicker to the net. When you have the puck you don’t have as much time as over there. It’s still the same sport so you just have to adjust small things and it goes pretty good.”
The former Nashville Predators fourth-round draft pick has waited seven years since that 2016 NHL Draft to make his NHL debut. A debut that Haman Aktell is quite clearly excited to make as he smiled throughout his media availability.
“Crazy,” Haman Aktell said. “Super fun and exciting. Lost for words almost.”
Haman Aktell will jump onto NHL ice for the first time in one of the league’s best buildings, Montreal’s Bell Centre.
“I heard it’s one of the best places you can do it so I’m really happy for that,” Haman Aktell said. “When I signed the contract, I didn’t know where I would play – if it was AHL or here. I try to have a good mindset wherever I play, so it’s fun to be up here and play.”
As for if he’ll have any loved ones in attendance to watch his debut, that’s unfortunately still up in the air.
“I’m trying to get one or two [of my family] or my girlfriend over,” Haman Aktell said. “We’ll see what’s happening if we have the time for that or not. That would be cool.”
Screenshot via @Capitals/X
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