Marcus Johansson: age 20, 5'11", 189 pounds, shoots left.
Contract: entry level, $900k million, RFA in 2013, per Capgeek.
2009-2010 raw stats, via stats.swehockey.se:
SEL: 42 GP, 10-10-20, 10 PIM
Playoffs: 7 GP, 0-5-5, 2 PIM
(Photo courtesy Caps Snaps)
First thing's first: if you haven't read "The Mackan Manifesto," go read it now. Your expectations for Johansson should now be aptly tempered.
Part of the reason Johansson is being touted so highly is that, quite simply, he's good. Since being drafted he's improved relative to the other players taken in that draft. Looking at that chart, Johansson projects out to around 17 goals and 34 points based on Gabriel Desjardins' NHL equivalencies. I don't doubt that Johansson can, given a full NHL season. The issue for Johansson is going to be cracking the team in the first place. Why? Well, the Caps can already fill a lineup with NHL-caliber forwards:
Mathieu Perreault may also make the team.
The other part of the reason why Johansson is being so highly touted is that management thinks he can crack the roster, or at least says as much. In my opinion, that speaks to the Capitals' lack of center depth quite a bit. He's likely not good enough yet for second-line center and playing center in the NHL on the third line could still prove too much, as generally young players indicate that they need to bulk up after their rookie seasons. I don't think the team would slot him in for fourth line minutes, either; instead, they'd want him to play bigger minutes in the SEL, where he finished the season playing on the top-2 lines. Ideally, he'd go to Hershey and play top-3 center there, but due to his opt-out clause, he's likely to go back to Sweden, I think. It's important to keep in mind that it's not bad for his development to go back to the SEL.
The Caps likely need two true centers to play second and third line-center to be competitive in the playoffs. Does Johansson fit the bill? Maybe, maybe not. It's very unlikely. Management certainly thinks he's good enough and that Johansson is worth giving a shot to along with Perreault--not a philosophy I disagree with--but it would be disastrous for Johansson's inexperience in terms of sheer games played quantity in a year to catch up with him after the deadline (remember, SEL regular seasons are about half the length of that in the NHL). I think ultimately that is what will send him back to Sweden or to Hershey.
My optimistic projection has Johansson as third line center (on which, playing with Fleischmann, he'd get softer minutes, as most young players should) and production right around his NHLE rate, but in fewer games. Call it 65 GP, 14-14-28, +5. My more realistic projection takes Johansson to under 10 NHL games and back to Sweden, where he'll put up around 25 points. Johansson is really one of the more unpredictable guys under contract. Will he stay or will he go? Should he still or should he go?
Well, we'll see soon enough, since training camp starts today.