As the 2019 NHL Draft approaches, we'll profile some of the top prospects available. Today we check out Sioux Falls' Ryan Johnson.
Weight: 173 lbs
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: #33 among North American Skaters
Growing up the son of former NHLer Craig Johnson, who played ten seasons in the NHL, most notably for the Los Angeles Kings, 17-year-old defenseman Ryan Johnson has had a lot of time to study what it takes to be great at the professional level. The California native, who is committed to play NCAA hockey with the Minnesota Gophers next season, just posted an excellent first season in the United States Hockey League after being drafted third overall by Sioux Falls in the 2017 USHL Futures Draft.
In 54 games played, Johnson recorded 6 goals and 19 assists, along with a plus/minus of +24, which earned himself a spot on the USHL All-Rookie Team. Johnson played 12 games in the playoffs, producing 2 goals and 6 assists, leading his Sioux Falls Stampede to a win in the Clark Cup Championship.
Prior to playing for Sioux Falls, Johnson played his Bantam and Midget years with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, posting 17 goals and 62 assists in three years with the program. He was also coached by his father, Craig, on the powerhouse Santa Margarita high school team in California while he was playing for the Jr. Ducks.
"Not only does he have a gifted skill set, but he works at it constantly. That's why he's had the success he's had already," said Alex Kim, head coach of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks, per jrducks.com. "He processes the game at a different level. That's probably his best attribute. He has the ability to dictate play, and Ryan brings a certain intensity to the game. When it's on, when things are tight, he's focused and he's at his best."
According to scouts, Johnson appears to be a modern, defensively oriented defenseman perfect for today's NHL. His greatest strength is his skating ability, showcasing excellent footwork to avoid forechecks and quick feet to counter a rush into the offensive side of the ice.
"He has elite feet. He's a one-man breakout," said one scout according to The Hockey News. "I don't think he's a high-end offensive guy, but he defends well for his size. His transition game is excellent."
"Elite skater, excellent feet," said another scout from The Hockey News. "His ceiling is very high, and he plays at a high tempo with very good pace. I don't know if his teammates were fast enough for the way he plays. Once he gets to the higher levels, he'll look even better. He checks a lot of boxes."
Johnson was also a huge benefactor for Team USA at the World Jr. A Challenge, where he played six games and won gold while playing against top lines. The teenager's positioning is already at an elite level. he's excellent at keeping opponents to the outside of the ice and consistently keeps himself between the man and his net. Although he's not a physical player yet, largely due to his size which is subject to develop, he takes good angles on opponents and effectively takes away passing lanes.
"EXCELLENT IN TRANSITION"
"Lightweight, mobile new age attacking defenseman with good upside due to his mobility, puck carrying skills and overall awareness. Excellent in transition with the outlet pass or my carrying the mail. His high-end footwork allows him to be aggressive defensively with the confidence in his lateral agility to get back in the mix. Needs to get better in his diagnosis and reaction in his end so he isn't running around so much, but his feet with eventually settle down and slow the game down. Very good at joining the rush down low, but is careful not to get caught. His long fast strides point to his upside. Almost looks as though he uses the boards to secure the time and space to suddenly explode out at top gear in a series of cuts to surprise and catch teams flat-footed" - DraftSite analyst Bill Placzek