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NHL Draft

Lucas Johansen 'catching up' to brother

Draft prospect says sibling Ryan of Predators has helped prepare him for NHL

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Lucas Johansen can thank older brother Ryan Johansen of the Nashville Predators for many things.

Offering his little brother a bit of leeway in the heat of competition isn't one of them.

"We were pretty competitive and he's five years older than me so he definitely had possession of whatever we were doing most of the time," Lucas Johansen, an 18-year-old defenseman for Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, said Wednesday at the NHL Scouting Combine at First Niagara Center. "I was most likely to be on the defensive so that's probably why I picked up the position at a young age.

"I'll admit I didn't win too many battles then, but I'm catching up now."

Lucas Johansen (6-foot-1, 176 pounds) rose 12 spots between NHL Central Scouting's midterm and final rankings of North American skaters, from No. 38 in January to No. 26 in April. He had 10 goals and 49 points in 69 games in 2015-16, his second season in the WHL.  

"He was in and out of the lineup in 2014-15, just trying to be an offensive guy, but this year he played [on a] top-four pair against other team's first line in a shutdown type role," said John Williams of NHL Central Scouting. "He was very good defensively and he has the offensive ability. He can make the little dish pass and has good hands. He won't be as big as his brother but he's still young."

Lucas expects his family, including Ryan, to be in attendance at First Niagara Center for the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24 and 25, when he figures to be selected in the early rounds.

"I got to see Ryan go through all this at a young age and now watching him play in the NHL is something I knew I always wanted to do," Lucas said of his brother, a forward. "Ryan has always has been a positive guy and has good advice for me. It's definitely nice to have gone through it with him already."

The Columbus Blue Jackets chose Ryan in the first round (No. 4) of the 2010 draft. The Blue Jackets traded him to the Predators for defenseman Seth Jones on Jan. 6 of this year.

"I think Nashville is a good fit for him," Lucas said. "They have a good young team and they'll do some good things. I know he's excited, he loves the city and fans. It's definitely good to see him so happy there."

Here are four other intriguing takes from Wednesday at the combine:

1. First-round feedback: There was a time when Riley Tufte wasn't sure if he would ever play hockey. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound left wing, who will attend the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2016-17, has had to overcome Type 1 diabetes since age 11.

He's done so, and is projected to be a first-round pick in the 2016 draft.

"I usually eat two-to-three hours before a game so I know my blood sugar will be good going out onto the ice and if I need to take a shot [of insulin] before the game I'll do it," Tufte said. "I have a sensor, too, so I know if my blood sugar is up or down. If it's down I'll drink some Gatorade. Everything has been controlled and I've never had any issues."

Tufte, No. 17 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, scored 47 goals and 78 points in 25 regular-season games as a senior at Blaine High School in Minnesota. He won Minnesota's 2016 Mr. Hockey Award as the top senior skater, something he has in common with fellow Blaine alumnus and Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad.

"I saw Nick a couple of days before the combine and he told me what it would be like; told me to stay calm and not be overwhelmed," Tufte said. "I think I play a similar game, and think we're built like each other. We have the same size and are good skaters."

2. Scout's honor: Al Jensen, who evaluates goaltenders for NHL Central Scouting, believes that injuries and better coaching are two reasons backup goaltenders have been given more opportunities to prove their ability in the NHL.

"I'm sure there are a number of good ones in the American Hockey League right now who could play well in the NHL but have never gotten the chance," Jensen said. "Injuries to the starters have certainly come into play too; it's given these quality goaltenders a chance and that's all they can ask for. What they do with it is up to them. Look at Matt Murray in Pittsburgh for Marc-Andre Fleury, and how Andrei Vasilevskiy stepped in for Ben Bishop in Tampa Bay.

"Coaches today have an option 1-A and 1-B in goal, and that's good."

3. Top underrated prospect: Center Henrik Borgstrom, who had 29 goals and 55 points in 40 games for HIFK Jr. in the Finnish junior league this season, has made up a lot of ground among the top international skaters.
Borgstrom (6-3, 176), No. 9 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters, is a player "full of surprises," according to NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb. He'll play in North America at the University of Denver in 2016-17.

"He's a different player with outstanding playmaking and puck-handling skills," Stubb said. "He's a crowd-pleaser with his surprising moves. He didn't play in the Finnish pro league since he was playing college next season."

Borgstrom seems set to play a big role for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal.

"I think there's a good chance he might be drafted late in the first round or early in the second," Stubb said.

4. Quirky question of the day: Tufte was a bit perplexed when asked if he ever had a beer after one of his high school games. 

"I was like, 'What?' " Tufte said. "And, no, I never did."

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