One of only a handful of American-born players to be taken with the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft, defenseman Erik Johnson grew up in Minnesota, spent time in Michigan skating for the U.S. National Team Development Program, returned to his home state for a season of college hockey and began his NHL career playing two full seasons and part of a third with the St. Louis Blues, who took him with the top pick in 2006.
For the past seven months Johnson has been getting to know a different part of the country, as the Blues sent him to the Colorado Avalanche in February as part of a trade involving multiple players and draft picks. So far, it's a move that has suited the 23-year-old well.
"It's a great place to live," Johnson said during his stop through the League's offices in midtown Manhattan on Friday as part of this year's Player Media Tour. "It's got to be one of the top five destinations in the country to live and people love living there. Guys love playing there."
In addition to the picturesque surroundings, Johnson noted how many former Avalanche greats still make their homes in the area. He also spoke about the pride those in the organization exhibit and wanting to be part of restoring the franchise's great tradition, which includes a pair of Stanley Cup championships.
"Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg and those guys all made the Avalanche what it is today," he said. "It's a great, first-class organization and we have to carry that on and get them back to where they used to be, in the playoffs and winning Stanley Cups like they did in '96 and '01.
"It's a town that, when we're winning, the fans are going to come back in droves. Obviously when I got there last year they were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak and we didn't win many games after that. It's going to be fun when we're winning and the fans are packing the Pepsi Center again."