It’s been less than three weeks since the Kings re-claimed Samuel Fagemo off waivers on November 11 and he’s made quite the impact since returning to Southern California.
The forward, whose NHL entry-level contract expired at the end of last season was issued a qualifying offer by the Kings in June and signed a one-year deal a week later. When he didn’t make the NHL club out of training camp, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Nashville Predators on Oct. 2. In his last moment on the ice as a King before being waived, he scored a game-winning goal to defeat San Jose in preseason action on September 30. Then when he scored in his first regular season game with Nashville, also against San Jose on Oct. 21, it looked like maybe the Göteborg, Sweden native had found a new home.
But after playing 12:32 in his first game action, Fagemo’s ice time dropped to 9:38 in game two, then a week later he played 8:23 in Vancouver. His final game with Nashville came in Seattle on Nov. 2. Eight days later he was back on waivers, unsure if another NHL team would give him an opportunity. If no team put in a claim, he’d be optioned to Nashville’s AHL club in Milwaukee.
Because Fagemo had originally signed his contract with LA, if the Kings wanted him back and no other organization put in a claim, he could immediately join the Reign. That exact scenario played out and Fagemo boarded a plane back to the west coast.
The following day, the winger immediately jumped into game action with Ontario where he had played 151 games over three seasons. While he admitted that he felt a little slow playing a 3 p.m. game the afternoon after a long flight, Fagemo found his legs in the third period and scored the game-winning goal in a 4-2 win over Colorado.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) November 13, 2023
That morning he got out on the ice early to get himself prepared, arriving at Toyota Arena before the rest of the team. When the rest of his teammates arrived and walked into the locker room before a red-carpet event with Reign fans and starting preparation for the game, there Fagemo was, waiting to greet faces he felt like he hadn’t seen in longer than the five weeks he was away.
“It was such a special time,” Fagemo said. “The boys welcomed me again. I feel like the atmosphere here is great. I think we are such a positive team; we always click together.”
Ever since then, he hasn’t slowed down. Seven games into his return to the Reign, Fagemo is scoring at the best pace of his career with 12 points on eight goals and four assists. He’s found the back of the net in five contests, including three two-goal performances, been on the scoresheet with at least a point in each game and has a plus-7 rating. Fagemo hasn’t finished as a minus player in any of the seven games. There was even a four-game span in seven days that consisted of nine points on seven goals and two assists.
Not surprisingly, that type of performance has helped Ontario in the standings as well. The Reign have gone 5-1-1 since Fagemo’s return, outscoring their opponents by a wide 27-12 margin which has included three shutout wins.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) November 20, 2023
Clearly, Fagemo is looking comfortable and as confident as ever on the ice. But he described it a different way, saying he’s thankful for the opportunity that the organization has given him.
“As soon as I got to come back to LA I just felt super happy and thankful for them taking me back again,” Fagemo said this week. “I really want to show that I can do my best out there with the Reign and with the Kings.”
Fagemo also mentioned that he has more confidence and he’s looking for the puck. His head coach Marco Sturm also echoed those thoughts.
“He’s feeling it now and he’s having fun,” Sturm said. “I think he wants the puck more than in the past, especially on the power play. He’s not afraid to shoot because his shot is so dangerous.”
Four of Fagemo’s goals have come via the power play, which had struggled prior to his return despite having top-tier talent such as captain TJ Tynan, who racked up a combined 88 power play points in his first two seasons with the Reign from 2021-23, newcomer Charles Hudon who led the AHL in power play goals a year ago and high-scoring rookie Brandt Clarke.
The unit has converted at just under 22% since Fagemo’s return, and after another goal on Tuesday against Tucson, Sturm credited his shot as one of the reasons they’ve been improved.
“Sammy makes a big, big difference I think on that unit,” Sturm said. “It makes them very dangerous. We should give it to him all the time because he doesn’t need too many opportunities to get it in. As a forward, that’s what you want, right? You want to feel good. You want to feel confident and right now he’s getting rewarded.”
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) November 25, 2023
Now that he’s back in a comfortable routine, it’d be natural for him to start thinking about an opportunity at the next level with the Kings. While that may come in time, Fagemo said he hasn’t been too focused about what his prospects are at the NHL level. For the moment, he’s just happy to be logging minutes and wins with Ontario.
The Reign have had talented rosters in each of the past three seasons, but that talent hasn’t translated into any lengthy postseason success. Last year’s sixth place finish in the Pacific Division standings and quick first-round exit in Colorado is still fresh on everyone’s memory.
“We have high expectations,” Fagemo said. “I think the team is having fun right now. Same with me, I’m just super excited to play a lot.”
Fagemo and the Reign have another tall task coming up this weekend when they face last year’s Western Conference Champion and regional rival Coachella Valley in a home-and-home series beginning Friday night in Ontario and concluding Saturday at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert.