Marcus Johansson is having the best year of his National Hockey League career. The 26-year-old Swedish forward from Landskrona, Sweden is third in the Washington Capitals’ team scoring list with a career-best 12 goals and 22 points.
Draft Day – June 26, 2009
Much is expected from a 24th overall draft pick. First of all, they are drafted ahead of 196 other players. In addition, NHL Central Scouting staff, team scouts and hockey analysts project each team’s draft selections leading up to the NHL draft. Some selections are bonafide stars expecting to break onto the opening night’s roster while others are looked upon as projects.
Former Capitals general manager George McPhee may have targeted Johansson as the third head to the Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom monster. Entering the draft in Montreal, Johansson was lauded for the ability to play on the wing or down the middle. He could take pressure off fellow Swedish center and phenom Backstrom (drafted in 2007) or jump up to play with Ovechkin. Johansson was the seventh Swede taken in the first round, but has gone on to suit up for more games than each of the four Swedes drafted before him.
Hockey runs in Johansson’s blood. As an 18-year-old, Marcus and his older brother, Martin Johansson, played together for Färjestad in the Swedish Hockey League. Their uncle Gunnar Johansson enjoyed playing and coaching for thirty years, mostly in the SHL. Adjectives attributed to the young Marcus were “soft hands,” “impressive hockey sense,” “speedy,” and “team player”.
Today, Johansson is displaying the wicked puck control on a nightly basis. Look at this pass that led to Backstrom’s overtime winner against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 7. He takes a bump to make the pass across the ice.
In this game, Johansson blazes down the ice and blasts the overtime winner on the road at Chicago.
From Yesterday to Today
Johansson came into Washington’s 2009 rookie camp touted by former head coach Bruce Boudreau and GM McPhee. At the time, Washington Post staff writer Katie Carrera spoke to McPhee.
“We’re not going to rush anyone or put anyone in over their heads.” McPhee stated. “But with Marcus, we think he’s got a real good chance of being with us if it looks like he can help us. It’s all a matter of experience how quickly he can adjust to everything here.”
It’s easy to say that it might have been too much for Johansson to begin an NHL career at 20 years old. He tallied 27 points in 69 games. He improved during a good 46-point sophomore campaign but trailed off. The following seasons saw point totals reach 22, 44, 47, and 46.
Expected to be a third-line center this year after re-signing with the Caps in July, Johansson’s skills have moved him up to play with center Backstrom. With a new focus and the wizard beside him, Johansson has seven points in six games. Overall, his season totals (12 goals-10 assists-22 points in 28 games) equate to a .79 points-per-game average.
In Tuesday’s road victory against the New York Islanders, Johansson assisted on Matt Niskanen’s game-winning goal. On Friday, the winger set up John Carlson’s power-play goal and locked a 4-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres with an empty net goal. And the puck finds Johansson’s stick at the right moments. The 26-year-old Swede has notched 5 game-winning goals so far, putting him on pace to eclipse last season’s career-best 7 GWG and then some.
Despite never contending for the Rocket Richard Trophy, Johansson has always been offensively minded. This year, his shooting percentage jumped to 24.5%, which puts him among impressive company.
Don't mind Marcus Johansson, he's just firing home OT-winners. pic.twitter.com/eOuT7lp25T
— NHL (@NHL) December 6, 2016
Johansson is entering the prime years. There will likely be more goals, passes, and heroics from Johansson this year. Although it took seven years, the Caps are happy to see Johansson’s skill and speed are paying off on a consistent basis.
Michael Mazzuca graduated from The University of Scranton with a degree in journalism and electronic media. Mike began writing for The Hockey Writers in December 2016. He has written for the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as well as the Rockland Boulders independent baseball team. Follow him on Twitter at @MazzucaMike.