Hype around Maple Leafs prospects has largely been about William Nylander ever since the team drafted him eighth overall in last year’s draft, but Leaf fans should familiarize themselves with another Swedish youngster.
Another Top Swede in T.O.
The team selected Gavle, Sweden native Andreas Johnson in the seventh round in 2013, but he is looking to be one of the team’s most talented prospects. The 20-year-old plays for Forlunda of the Swedish Elite League and currently is tied for fifth place in the league with 18 goals in 48 games.
Johnson is a left-handed left winger who is known for his good hands and vision on the ice. As his stats would suggest, he has a quick release and one that he has great accuracy with. His 18 goals are the most in the league of any player under 24 years of age.
Johnson played for Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championships last year helping his fellow countrymen capture silver. He had three goals and six points in seven games for his team. There is no question Johnson likely would have been looked to produce offence during this past year’s tournament, but his November 21 birthday meant he was too old by about two months.
He has played up the ranks of Frolunda his entire career. Starting back in 2009 where he played for the city’s under 16 team and climbing up to the city’s top men’s team in the SHL. Last year was his first full taste of the Swedish Elite league where he would play against men. He did not disappoint, he lead all rookies in scoring with 15 goals and 24 points and took home the league’s rookie of the year award.
The one seeming downfall to his game is his size. Johnson is just 5-foot-10, not ideal for a youngster who would face bigger and stronger competition when he joins the NHL. But as we have seen in players like Martin St. Louis and even Calgary Flames’ rookie Johnny Gaudreau this year, small players can produce and be effective in the league.
Could Quickly Slide Into the Lineup
Johnson has yet to sign a contract with the Maple Leafs since being drafted by the team. What that means is that the team will now have to either sign him by the upcoming draft or else he will become an unrestricted free agent.
What he might have going for him on a positional standpoint is that the organization isn’t very plentiful with left wingers. The Marlies don’t have any very skillful left wingers at their disposal and looking at the left side of the Maple Leafs, there is a good chance that heading into next season as many as three of the four spots could be open.
Daniel Winnik has been in many trade rumours heading up to the trade deadline this year, including an apparent deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins that fell through last minute following the All-Star weekend. David Booth is unlikely to be resigned by the team and with his potential value and the fact that he has trouble staying in the lineup for the Leafs, Joffrey Lupul could also be shipped out of town as well.
Part of the Re-Build
The Maple Leafs have dropped off substantially in the standings over the past couple months and now seem to be heading towards a top draft pick. The team finally seems ready for a complete roster blow-up, something that they have failed to do in seasons past.
The team got their rebuild underway last week when they traded Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators for a first round pick in 2015, Olli Jokinen, and prospect Brendan Leipsic. Jokinen is expected to be flipped by the team, while Leipsic led the CHL in scoring back in 2013.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) February 15, 2015
The team is quickly bolstering top young talent. In fact, Johnson’s 18 goals are the most in the SHL among drafted prospects in the league, another good sign for the youngster and the Leafs.
The team continues to be in the market for draft picks and prospects in exchange for roster players heading into the trade deadline. With that in mind roster spots and chances should be given to their prospects and Johnson should be among them. He may lack size, but he brings to the table a scoring touch that the team needs. It has become apparent in today’s NHL the most successful teams are those who build from within and from the draft, which further suggests a shot for Johnson should be given.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.