Lucas Johansen was selected 28th overall by the Washington Capitals in this year’s draft, but was cut from the Caps’ training camp roster and sent to Hershey. The Bears are over a third of the way through the season, which is enough time to start making solid observations about players.
So, how has Johansen played so far? Pretty well.
Through 31 games, the 20-year old defenseman has five goals and nine assists for 14 points. Traditionally a two-way defenseman, Johansen scored 90 points in 137 games in his last two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.
For a rookie defenseman, his point total is pretty impressive. Points don’t tell the whole story, however.
Johansen is a very sound defender. When the puck is being cycled around the defensive zone, he knows where he has to be. For example, against the Binghamton Devils Saturday, there was a sequence midway through the second period where the Devils were controlling the puck in the Hershey zone. Johansen planted himself in front of goalie Vitek Vanecek to try and move any Devils players that made their way over to the crease.
When he needed to drop below the net to battle for the puck or cut off a passing lane, he did.
Later in the period, Johansen had the task of moving two Devils out of the way so Vanecek could see the puck. Fellow defenseman Colby Williams was called for interference on that same play, but Johansen’s efforts kept the puck from going toward the net.
The one worry about Johansen is how often he can get burned while on the rush. He is, after all, a point producer. Johansen’s minus-16 rating is a team worst on the mostly minus Bears He hasn’t had a positive plus/minus rating in a game since Nov. 25, a 4-1 win against Hartford.
Johansen ended the first game of his AHL career minus-4, but has improved since then.
“He’s certainly maturing from game to game,” Bears head coach Troy Mann said.
Mann also noted that he wanted the Bears’ defense to get more involved offensively, and with that, he is happy with Johansen’s progression.
Aside from the struggles in his own end, Johansen has been a huge addition to the Bears. With Christian Djoos playing for the Capitals this season, it was obvious that the team needed someone to help offensively from the back-end.
Djoos had a tremendous 2016-17 campaign with Hershey, recording 58 points in 66 games. But as a comparison, Djoos had 22 points in 62 games for his rookie AHL season, while Johansen is already up to 14 with a lot of hockey left to play.
As Stars and Sticks observed in the Summer, Johansen is comparable to John Carlson, and Carlson’s contract is up after this season. With the current cap situation the Capitals find themselves in, it might not be too much of a stretch to imagine Johansen being up with the Caps next season.
Only time will tell when Johansen will leave Hershey, but one thing is certain; in a dismal season for the Bears, they have a budding star on their roster.