Life is subject to change.
Just ask Sammy Fagemo.
By the middle of the second round at the 2019 NHL Draft, Kings GM Rob Blake and his staff had already made three selections. They weren’t done yet, though. LA traded up 14 spots, moving from No. 64 to No. 50; using the opportunity to call Fagemo’s name and welcome him to the organization.
Less than six months later he led all players with eight goals in seven games at the World Junior Championship, en route to earning a bronze medal with his native Sweden.
After debuting with the Ontario Reign the following season, Fagemo went on to have a breakout sophomore campaign in 2021-22, finishing second on the team with 27 goals. He even found the back of the net in the team’s final game that year, a playoff loss to the Colorado Eagles.
Last season, Fagemo again elevated his stock, splitting time between the AHL and NHL. While up with the Kings, he recorded a pair of goals during his brief nine game stint.
However, things didn’t look very promising heading into this season. Due to salary cap restrictions, he was pretty much squeezed out of a spot with the big club. Being his fourth year as a pro, that also meant he would need to pass through waivers before Blake could assign him to the Reign last month.
There was only one problem with that plan. Waiting in the wings were the Nashville Predators, who quickly scooped him up.
“I had mixed emotions, for sure,” Fagemo shared, reflecting back to what he was feeling during that time in early October. “I wanted to stay in LA. I’m comfortable here and I really enjoy it here, both with LA and Ontario. My main goal was to make it to the Kings some day — and it’s still my goal. So, when that first happened, I was pretty sad.”
Even so, Fagemo needed to quickly pivot and adjust his mindset to fit the changes being thrust upon him.
“Sometimes you just have to accept a couple decisions and keep working, stay positive,” he said of the mental shift required. “I realized I was happy to get some new opportunities to play some more games in the National Hockey League. I learned a lot and I was just happy to get that chance again. I felt more comfortable and confident this year playing up there too. I think I got better as a player and a person, as well.”
In his Predators debut, Fagemo scored a power play goal. In three additional games with Nashville, the 6-foot winger was held off the score sheet. Then, this past Friday, he was placed back on waivers.
Not surprising, it was another emotional rollercoaster for Fagemo over the 24 hours that followed. In the end, he pretty much found out the results around the same time the rest of the hockey world did. Fagemo says he didn’t have any advance warning of which team would claim him or if he was staying with the Predators organization.
“At first, I was pretty sad to be put on waivers again, but then I was really hoping to get picked by LA,” he noted. “There’s a two-hour time change there in Nashville, so I got a call from [Preds GM] Barry Trotz at 1:00 pm [on Saturday]. He told me that the Kings were going to pick me up again!”
It was at this point in the conversation you could almost see the relief in Fagemo’s eyes. In one brief moment, he went from feeling like the dream he really wanted was quickly slipping through his hands back into a situation where he at least felt he had a better grip on the rope.
“I’m just super thankful and happy that the Kings picked me up again,” he added. “I really love living here, the staff, the team. They’re all so great.”
With the decision now known, he packed his bags and eventually headed to the airport.
When Sunday started, the early word was that Fagemo probably wouldn’t play for the Reign in their matinee tilt against the visiting Eagles. However, somebody forgot to tell the player. He was chomping at the bit to turn the page and get back into action.
After arriving in town at 9:30 am, he was already on the ice at Toyota Sports Performance Center less than two hours later.
“I felt pretty good,” proclaimed Fagemo. “I just wanted to play hockey.”
For his part, Reign coach Marco Sturm quickly flashed an ear-to-ear grin when asked about his former player returning to join the group again.
“Yes, a big smile!” said an exuberant Sturm. “First of all, he’s a good person. I really enjoyed working with him. He’s a good player; he was always a good player for us. He was bounced around a little bit, but I think he had some good experience with Nashville. Unfortunately, they put him on waivers again and we were lucky enough to get him back. You could tell today, there were just those moments where he [adds to the game] with his dangerous shot. It makes a big difference.”
As for what went down in the morning, Sturm was still chuckling about it late Sunday night.
“The problem was, he had two or three days off where he hadn’t skated because of waivers and all that kind of stuff,” explained Ontario’s bench boss. “They went on the road and left him behind, so he didn’t do anything. Then, he went on the ice [Sunday morning]. He wanted to go out and touch the ice at 11 am. Afterwards, he came out and he basically just told me, ‘Put me in coach.’ He wanted to play. He just wants to play hockey, so I gave him his opportunity.”
Coming off the brief layoff, Fagemo needed the first part of Sunday’s game to get his legs under him.
“I think the first couple of shifts were pretty tough, but then I kept feeling better and better with each shift,” he said.
Due to an injury, Fagemo was only able to skate in one playoff game against Colorado last spring. He was scoreless in that game too, a contest the Reign really could have used some of his offensive firepower, as they were ultimately swept out of postseason play by the Eagles.
While Sunday wasn’t a playoff game, nor were the stakes nearly as high, it certainly was still a big moment for Fagemo. He was back home, of sorts; playing for the organization he still very much wants to be a part of moving ahead.
Picking up right where he left off, Fagemo had the game winning goal against Colorado on Sunday. He helped beat a team the Reign lost twice to just last weekend, and the team that arguably is their biggest nemesis right now.
None of that probably really matters to Fagemo right now. He was more satisfied to put on a black, white, and silver jersey again.
“I’m just super happy that the Kings picked me up again and to get the opportunity to play with the Reign,” he reiterated. “They’re such a great team and the staff is great here, as well. I’m just super happy to be here; fun times right now.”
Lead photo via Daniel Stopani
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