Carl Hagelin hangs his white skates proudly on both sides of his nameplate that hangs above his stall in the Washington Capitals locker room. He doesn’t stick out, blending right in as if he’s been here the whole year.
And in a strange way, he’s been here for a while; Hagelin is no stranger to this area, to this rink. For years he walked past Washington’s locker room, skated on Capitals ice and shook hands and traded pushes and shoves with his then-unfamiliar teammates.
As his eyes shift around the room and he exchanges a bit of conversation with Evgeny Kuznetsov and company, Hagelin comes off as quiet, humbled to be a part of a team that he had constantly fought with in the past, competitively and emotionally.
“It’s been great. Great group of guys and a talented team that works hard and wants to win,” Hagelin said. “I fit in right away.”
The 30-year-old became a member of the Caps’ roster back in February, brought in to improve the penalty kill and add a bit more depth on offense. His speed is perhaps his biggest asset and makes a huge difference at both ends of the rink.
However, despite coming off as soft-spoken, Andre Burakovsky said he’s far from it; in fact, he’s pretty much the same way he is on the ice than he is off.
“There’s a lot of speed in him,” Burakovsky grinned. “Not the quiet guy. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of smiles to our team. That’s really important.”
Being a former foe can be tough, especially with how much the emotions between rivals can boil over, especially with Hagelin being prominent for his deadliness against Washington in the postseason. In 35 career playoff games against the Caps, he recorded six goals and 15 points.
However, once he stepped into the Capitals’ dressing room, Hagelin said that there was no bad blood and it took no time to get to know his new teammates.
“Mutual respect right away,” Hagelin said without taking time to think about it. “Since we played each other so much and played each other in high stakes games, coming here, it wasn’t hard to feel like part of the team. I felt like I knew them even though I didn’t.”
In the final 20 games of the regular season with Washington, Hagelin recorded three goals and 11 points, proving to click with pretty much any line combination. He averaged around 14 minutes a night, and to end the year, he led all Capitals forwards in ATOI shorthanded with 2:21 seconds, with Lars Eller not far behind.
So far through the first four games of the playoffs, he hasn’t recorded a point, but has brought a lot to the lineup defensively and has also taken great care of the puck, while also bringing energy to the bench.
“It is great to play with him,” Nicklas Backstrom said back in February. “He is so fast out there and creates so much energy and I just remember when he was in Pittsburgh, I used to hate playing against him, so it is better to have him on the same team.”
As the focus shifts to repeating for Washington, Hagelin’s now competing for the Cup with the Capitals, a team that he overcame twice in 2016 and 2017 to win back-to-back championships.
All former rivalries aside, though, that feeling of winning, the feeling of capturing a title, is what’s driving him and the entire team forward.
“[Winning], it’s tough to describe,” Hagelin said. “You put in so much work your whole life, throughout the season, and it’s a mix of excitement, you’re tired and feel letting everything go and living large, I guess.”
Overall, Hagelin emphasized the importance of professionalism and sportsmanship among him and his teammates, and is grateful to be with Washington.
“I’ve been fortunate coming to a team where they respect me and I respect them. They took me under their wing right away.”
Not only has he made an impact on and off the ice, but he’s been more than a teammate to many, including 24-year-old Burakovsky, who he speaks Swedish with and has gotten to know well.
“Hags fit in right away. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and becoming close friends,” Burakovsky said. “It’s been great to have him here.”