HERSHEY, PA- Being two months removed from the Washington Capitals Organization achieving the ultimate goal of lifting the Stanley Cup and also two months away from the start of the new season, the time to look ahead to is upon us. Even in the midst of another heated playoff series with bitter conference rival the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals kept an eye toward the future by adding fresh blood from across the pond. Both players will likely end up in Hershey out of camp and since it’s been three months since their signings, a quick refresher is in order.
Hopping Across the Pond
In the first week of May, the Capitals announced the contract signings a week apart. Juuso Ikonen, the first to be announced, was signed a two-year, two-way contract beginning in the 2018-19 season and hails from Espoo, Finland. He becomes the first Finnish player within the Capitals organization since Oskar Osala in the 2009-10 season.
The following week, Maximilian Kammerer signed a three-year entry-level contract worth $2.61 million beginning in 2018-19. Kammerer would become the first German-born skater to play for Hershey since defenseman Erich Goldmann in 1998-1999.
Hockey runs in the family for 23-year-old Ikonen whose father, uncle, cousin and younger brother all played. Juuso’s brother Joni was drafted in the second round by Montreal in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Neither has yet to crack an NHL roster, and Juuso is the first to sign with an NHL team.
Here’s Juuso’s initial scouting report from 2012 via Elite Prospects:
“Ikonen is a nifty winger with excellent puck skills and hockey sense. He is a fantastic skater with speed and agility as well as the stickhandling to move the puck while on the move. Ikonen is primarily a playmaker and uses his solid passing game, creativity and skating to generate opportunities. His most obvious flaw is his small size and lack of strength and while his hard-working attitude compensates for some of the disadvantage…” –Matias Strozyk
At 5’9”, 172-pounds, Ikonen is the second-shortest player currently on the Bears roster. However, lack of size has never held Bears players back from success (see 5’7” Chris Bourque). A quick trip to YouTube shows how crafty, nimble and quick Ikonen is to make up for his shortened stature. He’s quick on burying pucks in the slot and is shown to be a one-man breakout.
A little preview of Juuso Ikonen pic.twitter.com/gxRaWxZWTb
— Sin Bin Bears (@SinBinBears) August 7, 2018
In this particular case, it was a 50-50 puck off a defensive zone faceoff for Ikonen’s team. Without hesitation, Ikonen picks up the puck, races through the defense and scores. Last season, contested and lost faceoffs had a high probability of coming back to burn the Bears. Ikonen could help the team out in this area as the Bears are prepared to ice an even younger team.
Ikonen has 318 professional regulation games under his belt split between the Finnish Liiga and Swedish SHL and 71 playoff games. He won gold in the 2014 World Junior Championship with Finland, registering 1 goal and 2 assists in the championship campaign.
Joining Ikonen from overseas is 21-year-old Kammerer. Kammerer, unlike Ikonen, has a small cup of coffee in North America after playing a season in the WHL with the Regina Pats in 2013-14. In 40 games with Regina, Kammerer put up 1G and 2A. Upon returning to his hometown team in Dusseldorf, Germany in the DEL, he began to blossom as the center earned himself DEL Rookie of the Year in 2016-17 with 26 points in 51 games.
The following season, Kammerer increased his production to 31 points, leading Dusseldorf with 25 assists. With 125 games in the DEL, Kammerer comes in with more professional experience as a natural center than all current centers on the Hershey roster, after Michael Sgarbossa.
Both Ikonen and Kammerer will likely need an adjustment period to get acquainted with both North American hockey and with the Bears system, but given their professional success already, the potential is there for good things to happen.