Ryan Johansen under promised and over delivered when it came to his preseason goals with the Portland Winterhawks.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound centre says that as a 17-year-old Western Hockey League rookie, he had initially hoped he would do well enough to be taken in the first three rounds of the NHL draft. Instead, he had a breakout season on the Dub's breakout team and played his way into possibly being a Top 10 pick on Friday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Johansen indicated he should eventually have the size, speed and savvy to fill the oft-underappreciated yet important No. 2 centre slot in the NHL. The Port Moody, B.C., native, who played Junior A in his age-16 season, blossomed in the Rose City, tallying 25 goals and 69 points to help the Winterhawks more than double their point total (from 43 to 91).
Johansen and his regular right wing, Nino Niederreiter, are ranked 10th and 12th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. There's some friendly one-upsmanship about whio will be first to accept a jersey from a GM.
"There's going to be some bragging rights, that's for sure," says Johansen, whose other winger, Brad Ross, is ranked 59th.
Johansen and Ross, along with Winterhawks captain and defenceman Brett Ponich, are each attending Hockey Canada's world junior summer evaluation camp in St. John's, N.L., in August. In other words, after he becomes a first-round pick, Johansen should have a lot of talent around him during his final two seasons of junior.
1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?
"I was coming off a frustrating year in Penticton [of the British Columbia Hockey League]. I battled through it, had a good finish to that year and came out of the gates hard with unbelievable linemates [in Portland], Nino Niederreiter and Brad Ross.
"It all comes back to myself, Nino and Ross and the coaching staff wanting to keep us together throughout the year. We worked really well together. For Nino, he was a goal scorer and Ross, he was an agitator with also a lot of skill. He made a lot of room for me with a big, physical presence, which helped me out as our playmaker. We each had more than 25 goals [as 17-year-olds], so it was a pretty good year.
"Next year is going to be huge, we're going to be expected to be contenders for the [MasterCard] Memorial Cup. I know that's what our coaches are going to be emphasizing from Day 1."
2. In your mind, what would scouts say is the biggest thing you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?
"For me, continuing to get stronger and faster. I just need to remind myself constantly to keep moving my feet and have really intense shifts over the full 45 seconds."
3. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
"When our team needs to get going, it's usually our line that does it because we have so much skill. When we're out there working our butts off and supporting each other, there's a good chance we'll be dominating and putting pucks in the net."
4. Outside of family, whom do you consider your biggest influence in hockey?
"I would say that outside of family, one of my best friends, Travis Darke. He's always there to support me, one of those guys you're always close with, he's the valedictorian of our school back home and he's going to the University of Guelph."
5. Favourite pregame meal or ritual?
"To be honest, I have a few pregame rituals. One of them is for me and Nino. We go on the ice and stand beside each other and we do a little handshake. That's just a mandatory one."
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Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
- Portland Winterhawks
- Nino Niederreiter