The reigning Calder Cup MVP will now have a full season in the NHL to flourish and find what kind of major league player he can be. The sky is the limit for Johnsson.
One of the few rookies on the 2018-19 Leafs, Johnsson will look to move quickly up the depth chart with his performance through the beginning of the season. That is possible with the highly-skilled fourth-line the Leafs will be putting out this year.
So far, it looks like Johnsson will be to the left of newcomer European free agent Par Lindholm and speedy winger Kasperi Kapanen. While most teams have to pray that their fourth line doesn’t completely ruin the game for them, the Leafs get to throw out what would be a solid second line on about half of the teams in the league. We are blessed.
It was only nine regular season games and a total of 84 minutes on the ice, but Johnsson certainly impressed during his short stint last season. At even-strength, Johnsson had the second-highest Game Score/60 with a 2.72, only behind Matthews.
If you’re unfamiliar with Game Score, it was developed by Dom Luszczyszyn and essentially sums up a player’s productivity on the ice.
There are only a few rare cases when a player scores at the rate that Johnsson did in the AHL, at his age, and did not become a good NHL forward. Johnsson played his first season of professional hockey in North America just two years ago. That year he ended the season with 20 goals and 47 points in 75 games. A pretty good result for a 22-year-old forward that just came over from Sweden.
Last season, his sophomore year in North America, he was able to score an incredible 26 goals and 54 points in 54 games. His injury-laden season ended the correct way; him earning the Calder Cup MVP as he led the Toronto Marlies to become Calder Cup Champions.
From prospect-stats.com, here is Johnsson’s markers on his stats from last season in the AHL.
A no-doubt first-liner with the Marlies last season in every single stat. He was their offensive force and to go from that responsibility, to becoming a depth winger can either be a challenge or a breeze for a player like Johnsson.
He can either struggle with the speed and the quality of players that he will have to face in the NHL, or he can continue his offensive tear as he did with the Marlies. He will certainly go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond, but maybe that small fish can still put up big fish numbers.
Forgetting about fish analogies, Johnsson will hopefully get some key time on both special teams this upcoming season for the Leafs.
He has not yet fully displayed his ability to kill penalties in the NHL, playing a total of six minutes on the PK over his nine regular season games. But without Komarov, Plekanec, and Moore, the Leafs will need more wingers with the ability to kill penalties.
Kapanen, Hyman, and Brown will look great on the PK but add the speed and strength of Johnsson and it becomes a lethal shorthanded winger group.
Johnsson might have to impress at even-strength before getting a solid amount of time on the powerplay this season. He will most likely be on that second unit that isn’t fully-loaded with offensive powerhouses, but will still include some offensively-minded players.
If Johnsson can play consistently on both special teams, it will show how special a player he is to have deep in your lineup. The possibility of him moving up in the lineup is pretty great as well.
On Johnsson’s left side, he is behind the likes of Patrick Marleau, Zach Hyman, and Josh Leivo. None of those players are really cemented on their lines and everything is up-in-the-air as of now. Marleau will always be in the top-9, but Johnsson can no doubt displace any of those players if he starts scoring out of his mind in limited minutes.
A player that no one can hate, Johnsson is set-up to have a breakout year in a depth position on the Leafs. He might have favourable matches at even-strength and Babcock will be drooling at the thought of unleashing Johnsson and Kapanen on those poor bottom-pairing defencemen.
Even if he doesn’t rise up to the top-6 by the end of the season, Johnsson will no doubt be a full-time NHL forward and he has earned that.