The Columbus Dispatch recalls how the Blue Jackets were roundly criticized for not sending Ryan Johansen, the No. 4 overall draft pick by the team in 2011, back to his junior club last year or letting him play for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. He was too young to play in the AHL last season.
As one NHL scout put it: “That right there is a wide-angle look at how NOT to develop a player.”
Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson disagrees, saying Johansen needed a new challenge to keep progressing.
“Ryan was a dominant player in the juniors,” Howson said. “I reject the notion that he should have gone back, because he needed to see what the NHL was all about. Now he knows. So in that respect, I think we’re a year ahead in his development than we would have been.”
Johansen has 10 goals, 11 assists and a plus-9 rating in 26 games, playing center on Springfield’s No. 1 line, top power-play unit and even the penalty kill. He’s taking late-game draws and being put in pressure situations.
“This is way better than I expected,” Johansen said. “There’s so much positive down here.
“I feel like this is going to help my game up in Columbus a lot. I’ve learned so much from (Springfield coach Brad Larsen). He’s one of those coaches who really keeps the guys accountable, really makes sure you’re doing everything right. He’s really focused on the details, and I think I needed that.”
Larsen has been pleasantly surprised by Johansen, too. High draft picks often arrive in the AHL with a desire to score and not a willingness to put in the work.
To that end, Larsen told Johansen early that he didn’t care about statistics.
“Ryan could get numbers in his sleep,” Larsen said. “It’s his defensive-zone arrival, it’s his compete level, it’s his tracking the puck, it’s the details and the structure we’re looking for.
“From Day One, he’s been there. It goes up and down like a lot of young guys, but he’s been working hard for us.”