Much was expected from Erik Johnson when the St. Louis Blues tabbed him with the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft. Six years later, Colorado Avalanche management has shown it has plenty of faith in the defenseman's ability to finally live up to his big-time potential.
Acquired from the Blues in February 2011 in a blockbuster trade that included four players and two draft picks, Johnson will begin his second full season in the fall with a new four-year, $15 million contract.
Though he enjoyed a solid, if unspectacular, second half of the season in 2011-12, the 6-foot-4, 232-pounder still has plenty to prove. He is being counted on to anchor the Avalanche defense in what will be his fifth NHL season. Johnson, 24, missed the entire 2008-09 campaign to recover from a knee injury suffered in a golf outing, and his inconsistency has baffled folks around the NHL.
Now, with a lucrative contract in hand following a full season in Colorado to get acclimated to life in Denver and to head coach Joe Sacco's system, Johnson needs to step up his game and give a reliable effort on a nightly basis.
Johnson was the Avalanche's top-scoring defenseman last year with 26 points -- four goals, 22 assists -- in 73 games, and he averaged nearly 21 minutes of ice time. But he owns a booming shot and should be more productive, especially on power plays, where he scored just once.
"I'm very excited, very appreciative and very grateful for this opportunity from the Avalanche," Johnson said.
Now he has to show it on the ice, game in and game out.