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Columbus Blue Jackets Look for Ryan Johansen to Have Breakout Season
When Ryan Johansen was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, to say that the team and fanbase expected more out of him would be an understatement. The heralded center came out of the draft at just 6’2 and 192 pounds, well overmatched by his peers in the NHL. His lack of size showed early against legitimate competition, and his confidence appeared to falter because of it.
Now, coming into camp at 6’3″ and 222 pounds, he is essentially the ideal size that NHL teams look for at the position. The ex-Springfield Falcon has been teaming with Mark Letestu and R.J. Umberger while centering the third line, and the early results so far have been impressive.
“To me, Ryan looks fast,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “He looks like he’s playing the game really fast. “But when you get mixed in with real opposition now, that’ll be the true test of what we’ll get from him.”
Johansen is known for having great offseasons, camps and preseason, but he has struggled to make an impact on the team while in the regular season. His underwhelming level of play earned him a quick trip right back down to the AHL, where he worked on his game time and time again last season.
“It was tough,” Johansen said. “I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to. Nobody likes watching your team from the stands. “I’ll definitely do everything I can to prevent that from ever happening again.”
When he was called back up, he made the best of it and made every game count. Johansen was lights-out during the Columbus Blue Jackets incredible 19-5-5 streak to end the season, narrowly missing the NHL playoffs. Alongside Umberger and Nick Foligno, they became one of the most productive and surprising lines in the West. Johansen finished that streak with a minus-7 rating, five goals and seven assists, as well as being nearly untouchable on faceoffs.
The Blue Jackets this season will be expecting Johansen to be much more involved and hopefully start living up to his high draft position. If he continues where he left off with the streak at the end of the season, Johansen would put up 34 points, but don’t expect him to settle for that, especially with the increased playing time he is looking at receiving.
“There’s definitely going to be a bigger role, and I’ll be ready for it,” he said. “I’ve worked hard. I feel light and fast. I want to be a top line player on our team, one of those difference-makers every night.”
In the preseason so far, Columbus holds a record of 3-1-1, with players such as center Boone Jenner and defenseman Ryan Murray making a big impact. The organization is looking for Johansen to build on the success of his past season, with even more production thanks to his offseason conditioning and larger frame.
“I feel really confident in myself,” Johansen told NHL.com. “I feel I can step in and be an impact player this year. That’s my goal, to be one of our top centermen. I think I bring a lot to the table and can help the team win. I just have to put my working hat on every day and do my thing.”
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