Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. I don’t like it... I love it. Enough about me, let’s unpack it.
High-End Skill: Ryan Johansen is equal parts goal scorer and distributor. In his last two seasons, he set a career-high 33 goals in 2013-14, and an assists/points high of 45 and 71, respectively, last season. The Preds played Columbus twice during the preseason, and I watched him center a line with Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad. They looked simply lethal together, and it all ran through Johansen down the middle. I expected that unit to do a lot of damage this year.
Big Centerman: This is a specific area of need for the Predators. A recent injury to Mike Fisher proved they were a little lean down the middle. It's not entirely clear whether Mike Ribeiro and Fisher come back once their current two-year contracts expire after next season. Johansen, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound pivot, gives you some weight at forward, and he’s in the Top 10 in face-off percentage among players taking 400 draws or more.
Power Play: While in Dallas on a recent road trip, I spoke with a member of their coaching staff about Johansen. The Stars had just played Columbus and the Preds new center had left a strong impression on Dallas Assistant Coach James Patrick. He sees him as perhaps the best half-wall guy in the game right now. He’s very skilled at making plays from the spot that rests at the heart of the man advantage. Fair to say Nashville’s power play just got more dangerous.
RFA: The Vancouver native has another year remaining on his contract. And even with that, he is a restricted free agent after the current agreement expires. You have Ryan Johansen under wraps for a few years to come. The difference between Jones (21-years-old) and Johansen (23-years-old) is hardly worth mentioning.
Uncoachable? Johansen fell out of favor with the Blue Jackets organization for some reason. Perhaps this stems from a contract holdout situation in 2014 and/or a reluctance to play within new Head Coach John Tortorella’s structure. Whatever the challenge, we're talking about a young player still learning what it takes to be a pro at the NHL level. In Nashville, he’ll be surrounded by the sort of people who can help a gifted player reach his full potential.