As the offseason winds down and we begin the countdown to the regular season, it’s time to get familiar with those who will be donning the red, white and blue in Columbus. We’ll take a look at those guaranteed to make the roster as well as those with a shot to make the club out of camp.
Today, we take a look at its burgeoning superstar: Ryan Johansen.
If you ignore the fact that he’s locked in a contract battle with the Blue Jackets that doesn’t seem like it’s going to end any time soon – the two sides are supposedly as far as $3 million per season apart – Johansen is right there with Sergei Bobrovsky as one of the most important players in the organization.
The 22-year-old burst onto the main stage last season after two largely forgettable seasons. He played his first 82-game season, posting career-highs in goals (33), assists (30) and points (63), to lead the Jackets in scoring for the first time.
In Johansen, the Jackets have quiet the player on their hands. The fourth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Johansen is far from his prime and should only get better as he matures. He’s got the body (6’3”, 223) to be effective as a power forward and should hold up to the rigors of being a top-line center in the NHL.
On top of that, he plays a quality two-way game (he’ll never be confused with Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, but he’s solid) and has shown his incredible offensive instincts with his offensive outburst this past season. He’s got room to improve as far as his decision making and playing without the puck, but he’s got all the tools and seems to be on his way to living up to his potential.
Provided they come to terms on a new deal – Johansen’s side supposedly wants in the neighborhood of $7 million per season, which is just outrageous – or a general manager decides to force their hand by submitting an offer sheet, Johansen is the clear #1 center for the Jackets and will likely form a top unit with the newly-acquired Scott Hartnell and winger Nathan Horton. There’s a ton of size (Hartnell is 6’2”, 215 while Horton is 6’2”, 230) and physicality in the group, not to mention the fact that all three are capable of hitting the 30-goal mark on a good year. They’ll be a huge pain in the ass to play against and opposing defenders will have anything but an easy time matching up against them.
Johansen should see his biggest season to date and will be one of the catalysts in the Jackets’ push back into the playoffs and beyond. He’s the franchise now and (after he gets paid) well into the future. #1 centers don’t grow on trees, but the Jackets have found theirs.
Now sign the contract, Ryan. There are big things to be done in Columbus.
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