Erik Johnson had a first half to remember during the 2014-15 campaign. The All-Star was on pace to having a career year before arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 26 prevented him from playing the second half of the season.
Prior to his injury, the 6-foot-4 defenseman was tied for first among NHL blueliners with 12 goals, which also set a new personal career high. He had tallied 23 points (12 goals and 11 assists) in 47 games and was leading the Avs in ice time (24:25), blocked shots (107) and power-play goals (3-tied).
Johnson’s solid play at both ends of the ice earned the Bloomington, Minnesota, native his first career invite to the NHL All-Star Game. He was the first Colorado defenseman to earn a spot on the All-Star team since Rob Blake during the 2003-04 season. Overall, Johnson was just the fourth Avalanche D-man to be named an All-Star since the franchise moved to Denver in 1995, joining Ray Bourque, Sandis Ozolinsh and Blake.
“I’m very honored and humbled to be selected to the All-Star Game,” Johnson said when the roster was announced in January. “It's a great individual accomplishment, but at the same time a reflection of a lot of great teammates and coaches that I have that helped me to get to where I am at right now.”
It was impressive that Johnson set a career high in goals after playing in just over half of the games last season. The rear guard's previous career high was 10 goals in the 2009-10 season with the St. Louis Blues, but he played in 79 games that year.
Johnson said he felt comfortable with where his game was at last season and knew that his performance on the ice was proving it.
“When the puck is going into the net that adds another layer of confidence for you,” Johnson reflected at the end of last season. “For me, right from the get-go I felt good and refreshed and ready to go and play a lot of minutes, and I just kind of took off from there from October on. I kept elevating and kept playing at a high level.”
Even though the surgery prevented Johnson from completing what looked to be a career year, he still wants to learn and build off of what he accomplished for the upcoming 2015-16 season.
“The coaching staff wanted me to take on a bigger role and play more minutes, and I did that and I was on pace for a career year,” Johnson said. “It would have been nice to finish that out and see where it took me, but I know what I am capable of now. I know I still have room to grow and can be better and take on more responsibility. So in that regard it was nice to really settle myself as a top defenseman, and I want to continue on from there and go into next year and be able to do that.”