Last Word on Hockey
Johnson will need time to develop. He needs to add muscle to his frame in order to play at the pro level. Heading the NCAA route is an advantage here as the college schedule is lighter than junior leagues and will give him plenty of time in the weight room. He will also need to develop a bit of his offensive game to truly be a top pair defender.
Even if the offence doesn’t develop, his skating and his defensive game help him grow into a second pair defender. Johnson’s style resembles a bigger version of Victor Mete. However, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.
This is one of my favorite players in this draft class. Johnson has great mobility and I think significantly more offense than he got to showcase in an extremely simplified system in the USHL. He showed a bit more of that offense in his run to the Clark Cup this year and he’s a very smart player who I think could be one of the steals of this draft. He plays a very intelligent game in his own end and keeps it simple, understanding his limitations and staying within his means. That’s always a great sign for a young player because it shows self-awareness and understanding of who you are and, just as importantly, who you aren’t.
The real question about Johnson is how much of his offense will translate. That will ultimately be a big factor in what kind of role he ultimately secures in the NHL. I think he’s likely headed for a career as a middle-pairing defender but he could have enough sneaky offense to be a very valuable two-way player down the road. He’s headed to Minnesota next year and the college route will allow him to fill out nicely while opening up new facets of his game.
Simply as a player, Johnson is a great fit because Colorado doesn’t have very many solid two-way defenseman with ceilings above the third pairing. Johnson’s skating is a perfect fit for Colorado’s style and his intelligence makes him a natural fit for the identity the Avalanche are developing. He’ll be a slower developing player and that will be just fine for Colorado, who doesn’t need immediate reinforcements along the defense anyway.
The real question about Johnson is how he would land in Colorado. The two likeliest scenarios are him falling to 47th overall, which would signal the NHL went dumb again, or the Avs trade back from 16 and draft Johnson somewhere in the 25-ish range. That’s an appropriate place for Johnson in my opinion as I’m a little higher on him than most. Taking him at 16 would be poor value but the player would be a great fit.
Ranked #30 by TSN/McKenzie
Ranked #33 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)