In less than a month (on Jan. 6), we will pass the one-year anniversary of the blockbuster trade that saw the Nashville Predators trade defenseman Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets straight up for center Ryan Johansen. Both players have yet to reach their prime and the swap sent a shockwave through the NHL — mostly because no one truly believed either player was on the trading block.
But both teams got what they needed, and the Preds had a surplus of defenders and desperately desired a young, No. 1 center to slide into their top six. In 42 games with Smashville, the 24-year-old pivot racked up 34 points (8G-26A) and then tallied eight more points (4G-4A) in 14 playoff games. The combination of Johansen with Mike Fisher gives them two centers who win more face-offs than they lose, which is always a good thing.
This season through 32 games, Ryan Johansen’s 23 points (7G-16A) ties him for the team lead in points (with Viktor Arvidsson) and he’s their top assist man. Following Nashville’s 5-1 throttling of the New Jersey Devils in Newark, The Hockey Writers spoke with him on a variety of topics.
— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) November 30, 2016
The Hockey Writers: The Predators have had an up-and-down season thus far; it has to feel good to pick up a second road win in two nights, right?
Ryan Johansen: Yeah, all of our lines were firing and we’ve had a lot of guys play some good hockey for us over the last couple of games. That handsome devil over there (goaltender Juuse Saros) played a great game for us. From top to bottom tonight was a good road effort.
THW: It’s been almost a calendar year now since you were traded from Columbus; has the newness worn off and do you feel at home now?
RJ: For me, the transition has been pretty easy. The character in this room and our leadership, they made it very easy for me to come in and just play hockey. That’s the main thing I wanted to do after being traded – just go out there and do my job. They believe in you and they want you to be a part of their organization, I’m just always trying to put my best foot forward and play my game.
— Nashville Preds PR (@PredsPR) December 2, 2016
THW: This team had a really nice run in last year’s playoffs and some incredibly epic moments. What are some things that you took out of that experience?
RJ: We did a lot of good things and we had a couple of big wins; it was definitely a fun time playing in Nashville and going through that. It was a good learning experience for us too; we went to a Game 7 against a team that was in the Finals. We’re not that far (away), we just have to keep believing and gain confidence that we can go further.
— Mikey B (@MikeJBknows) May 6, 2016
THW: The new Preds captain this season is Mike Fisher, who is a center like yourself. What are some of the things you’ve learned from being around him?
RJ: Fishy does it all. He’s been a great role model for myself, and for a lot of players in this league, the teams he’s played on. I really enjoy playing with a character guy like that and we’re definitely lucky to have him in our organization.
THW: From the time you came in the league until now you have taken a lot of face-offs; what’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned?
RJ: Yeah, I’ve played almost 400 games now so you play against a lot of the same players and learn tendencies. The linesmen, and understanding them. Experience helps. You get a little stronger and a little quicker at things. It’s a big part of the game, it shows in the playoffs and things like that. (Puck) possession is a big key, I take that part of my game very seriously.
THW: What’s it been like living in Nashville?
RJ: What a great town — I’ve really enjoyed my time there. It’s a great place for friends and family to come visit as well. As a lot of people know our building, the Bridgestone Arena, the atmosphere we get on a night-in, night-out basis is pretty incredible. I always love coming to that rink and playing for the city of Nashville.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.