Ryan Johansen was part of the 2012 NHL All-Star festivities in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ont., but he’s not shy in admitting that this weekend is on a different level.
This is his home NHL city and the celebration is hosted by the franchise that drafted him fourth overall in 2010 and has supported him through good times and bad during the first four years of his career. It also happens to be a city that he’s quite fond of, and as one of the young stars of the NHL, Johansen is excited for his peers to see what Columbus is all about.
Though the All-Star Weekend is still young and there hasn’t been an official event yet, Johansen can sense the excitement both in the Arena District and among the best hockey players in the world.
“I’m still a hockey fan even though I’m a player in the league,” Johansen said. “I still love the game, love watching players and learning from players. We’re all together and going to be hanging around doing things, (experiencing) the festivities, the Skills Competition…it’s cool to be part of it with all these guys.
“I think at the end of the weekend, we’ll be able to talk about that a little more. (Some of the players) are trying to figure out the spots; for me, a few of the guys were asking where to go and where to eat. They seemed to really enjoy their first day here and they’ll get to know the city a lot more over the next couple days. What’s cool about Columbus is the downtown area – when teams come to stay here, everything’s right around here and in the Arena District.”
Much has been made, too, of the several players bowing out of this year’s All-Star celebration due to injury. Three goaltenders, including Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, have been replaced in the last two weeks, and within the past 48 hours, the Penguins have announced that both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin would miss due to injury.
It’s not a surprise, Johansen said, because injuries are part of the game and these things happen every year. But in particular he said it was difficult to see Bobrovsky get injured Wednesday night in Winnipeg, helped off the ice by teammates Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Hartnell with a lower body injury that ended his All-Star participation.
“I was asked that yesterday, and I really have no words for it,” Johansen said of Bobrovsky. “It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s part of the game and injuries happen. I feel terrible that he’s not going to be able to do the skills and the game. It’s tough.”
Johansen is on quite the stage as a 22-year-old, one coming off a breakout season in2013-14 and on a similar scoring pace this season. He’s ready to follow the old cliché of “soaking it all in,” watching the hockey world descend upon Columbus and celebrate the game and its best players in a city that’s waited quite a few years to host a party like this.
“There’s no pressure,” he said. “We’re all out here to just have a good time and show off our skills and what we do. I’m sure I’ll be nervous while the events are going on, but we’re just playing hockey.
“There’s a lot of hype. I don’t think they’ve had an experience like this before and I think everyone’s really interested to see what happens.”
He’s interested to see what happens at the All-Star Fantasy Draft pres. by DraftKings (tonight, 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN) where his line mate and good friend Nick Foligno will be one of two captains picking teams for this year’s Honda NHL All-Star Game.
Does Johansen expect to be selected by Captain Foligno with tonight’s first pick?
“I don’t know,” Johansen said, laughing. “(Foligno) is the guy to ask for that question. We’ll see. We’ve had conversations here and there. People have asked us that question (for the last few weeks).
“There’s a bunch of amazing hockey players here. I’m going to let Nick do his thing. I’m sure he’ll make the right choice.”