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Preds Previews: Ryan Johansen

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators
First impressions are everything, right?

If so, Ryan Johansen did an admirable job in making his last season. It took just 2:35 into his first contest with the Nashville Predators to score a goal. Johansen then followed that up by producing 16 points (4g-12a) in his first 16 games with the Preds, before adding 15 more points in his final 13 games of the regular season.

When Predators General Manager David Poile acquired Johansen last January from Columbus, it led the GM to state that for the first time in the club’s 18-year history, they finally had a No. 1 center. And that’s exactly what the Preds expect Johansen to be for years to come.

“He’s obviously proven he’s a No. 1 centerman,” Preds Assistant Coach Kevin McCarthy said of Johansen. “He has great playmaking ability, he sees the ice very well, and he’s one of those guys that looks for plays that other players can’t make. He’s one of those guys that can do it and has a high skill level.”

McCarthy, and the rest of the Preds coaching staff, will be looking for more out of Johansen during the 2016-17 season simply because they know the type of player he can be. For someone who is just now set to enter the prime of his career, Johansen would undoubtedly like to improve upon his career-high 46 assists, which he set last season.

“I think the biggest thing with Ryan is going to be consistency; we’ve talked about that and making sure that he brings that to the table each and every game,” McCarthy said. “That’s going to be his goal for next season, to be that type of player, but be that player more consistently.”

Johansen saw plenty of time on a line with winger James Neal last season, and the two figure to see some time together again in 2016-17. Not only did Neal and Johansen complement each other’s game, Neal also proved to be a mentor for Johansen.

Like Johansen, Neal has been traded mid-season before, when Dallas sent him to Pittsburgh in February of 2011. Having already experienced the challenges that come with a swap at that juncture, Neal was there to offer assistance or advice for Johansen whenever needed. With Johansen now set to enter his first full season with the Preds, Neal also expects big things from the 24-year-old.

“It’s always tough coming over midway through the year when you’ve played on a team for so long,” Neal said. “Your whole world changes pretty quick, so to give him a chance to make Nashville his home and give him a chance to have a good summer of training and get ready for a big year, I think it’s something that he needed. He’ll come back hungry and ready to play some good hockey.”

This summer, Johansen enjoyed seeing his younger brother, Lucas, get drafted in the first round by the Washington Capitals before heading home to co-host the Potential Apparel Whistler Invitational with fellow NHLer, Brenden Dillon.

Now, No. 92 is back in Nashville for what he hopes is his best season yet, with plenty of impressions to be made.

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