ColoradoAvalanche.com profiles the players named to the Avalanche's 20th Anniversary Team.
The first-overall pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, rear guard Erik Johnson was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 18, 2011. Since then, he has become a fan-favorite. He was certainly remembered when it came time to select defensemen for the Colorado Avalanche’s 20th Anniversary Team.
The Bloomington, Minnesota, native has skated in 284 contests with Colorado and has recorded 112 points (33 goals, 79 helpers). Five of those markers are game-winners.
One of his favorite Avalanche memories is playing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he lit the lamp once and added one assist in seven contests.
“Being able to make the playoffs in Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic’s first year in charge, and playing in Game 7 was really special, and we want to have more of those playoff games hopefully,” Johnson recalled.
Although the blueliner only skated in 47 games during the 2014-15 campaign, he was on pace to have a career year before a knee injury sidelined him. Johnson finished the season tied for first among Colorado defensemen with a career-high 12 goals—ranked first among d-men in the NHL at the time of his injury—and averaged a team-high 24:25 of ice time per game. He also tallied 11 assists to finish second in points (23) among Avalanche rear guards.
Johnson also became the fourth Avalanche defenseman to be selected to an All-Star Game since the franchise moved to the Mile High City in 1995, joining Ray Bourque, Sandis Ozolinsh and Rob Blake. Blake was the last Colorado rear guard to be picked, in the 2003-04 season.
Before the 2015-16 campaign began, Johnson was signed to a seven-year contract extension, insuring that he will be a member of the Avs until the end of the 2022-23 season. In 31 contests so far this year, Johnson has lit the lamp five times and tallied five assists.
The 27-year-old blueliner grew up an Avalanche fan and was flattered to be selected to a team among the players he loved to watch.
“Growing up, I just remember the times they won the cup, and those rivalries with the Detroit Red Wings. There were so many great games,” said the defenseman. “The Avs were my favorite team when I was little. I had a Sakic jersey that I got for Christmas one year. Having basically Pat and Joe be my bosses now, everything has kind of come full circle.
“You know, I never thought I would be playing for them, much less named to an anniversary team with them, so it is cool.”
Not only does Johnson fondly remember both his head coach and general manager raising the Stanley Cup multiple times, but he is motivated by the success the Avalanche has achieved during its 20 years in Denver.
“They won two cups in their first five years in Denver, so I think the fans were definitely pretty spoiled with the quality of players they had and how good the teams were,” said the 6-foot-4 rear guard. “Seeing the success they had as players, you want to do that as a player yourself.
“There has obviously been a ton of great teams and players that preceded my time here, so just to be mentioned in the same breath as some guys like that is a pretty cool honor, and I am super excited.”
Johnson joined the other members of the 20th Anniversary Team for a special pregame ceremony on Dec. 7, prior to the Avs taking on the Minnesota Wild.