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Johansson impresses Wild with poise

Defenseman prospect smooth in own end, needs to improve offense

by Jessi Pierce / Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Filip Johansson's first impression of Minnesota?

"It's warm. Very warm."

Selected by the Minnesota Wild in the first round (No. 24) in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Sweden-born defenseman's English isn't confused; temperatures were unseasonably warm, reaching the upper-90s in St. Paul during the Wild's development camp at Xcel Energy Center that concludes Sunday.

But if Johannsson was feeling any heat or pressure outside of the summer temperature, he didn't show it, as he skated with ease during his first profressional development camp, retrieving pucks and breaking out of the zone with speed and precision passes, showing why the Wild think so highly of him.

"Filip's just gifted," Minnesota assistant Dean Evason said. "You can see just in his vision and his ability to make things look very easy out there. We put him through a real tough skate … and he never fatigued, [he] was able to continue his smooth play with the puck."

Video: Wild drafts defenseman Filip Johansson No. 24

Though Johansson helped Sweden win bronze at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, he has flown under the radar and said he was surprised to be selected in the first round. He had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 29 games with Leksands in the Swedish Junior League last season and one goal in 23 games with Leksands in Sweden's second-tier Allsvenskan league.

That lack of offensive production will be an area of focus for Johansson when he returns to Sweden this season.

"My offensive game, puck skills, my shot, that kind of thing can be improved," Johansson said. "[Being at development camp] I want to send a good message to the coaching staff, and that's tough. [I'll be] taking a lot of things back home, working on [them] every day … and improve my game."

On the willingness to learn and improve, Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir called Johansson "a sponge."

"He wants to learn everything," Bombardir said. "He's taking everything in from the people on the ice and the people in the gym. He's got just an unbelievable demeanor. You can tell he's a character guy and a leader even as young as he is, so I like that."

The consensus is Johansson (6-foot-1, 176 pounds) can add size, something Bombardir expects him to do over the course of the next few years, which would lead to making a real push for a Wild roster spot.

"It feels great … that [the Wild] are believing in me and they see something in me," Johansson said. "So I will do all I can to make it."

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