Blue Jackets’ Ryan Johansen a paragon of patient progress

Columbus’ slow development of 21-year-old Ryan Johansen was worth the wait as the once unrefined forward is now soaring and looking like a future superstar

When Columbus selected Ryan Johansen fourth overall in 2010, the Blue Jackets knew they were getting a raw product. Johansen had just one season of major junior under his belt at the time, but his 6-foot-3, 192-pound frame could be built upon and the skills were there. It took a while, but it finally seems as though Johansen has arrived as now he’s starting to show glimpses of that No. 1 center he was projected to be.

“He’s more competitive,” said coach Todd Richards. “Stronger on the puck, he wants the puck, wants to play with the puck and now you can see the talent he has.”

Now up to 223 pounds, Johansen is having a breakout season, with 37 points in 51 games to lead his team in scoring. That’s a good chunk of offense for a player whose previous career-high was 21 points back as a rookie in 2011-12. Johansen put in the work this summer and is now being rewarded.

“Personally, I just wanted to be comfortable with my game,” he said. “I worked on a lot of stick skills and my shot – all those little things that can take you to another level – and I feel it has helped me a lot. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

One aspect of his game that has helped Johansen and his team is the center’s play at the dot. As a rookie, he won just 45 percent of his draws. This season he was operating at a 52.1 percent clip, which has led to an increased amount of time on the penalty kill.

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“He’s a smart player,” Richards said. “He’s big and he’s got great range with his stick. We have him out there because of faceoffs, but I have to be careful how I use Ryan, because there’s times where we need him for offensive situations for power plays and those types of scenarios. He has proven that he thinks the game well.”

The hype of being the fourth overall selection for a franchise that has historically struggled in the first round of the draft has subsided, but Johansen never felt burdened.

“My draft year was such a rollercoaster,” he said. “At the start of the year I was ranked in the third round and by the end of the year all these teams thought I had the potential to be a great player.

“It’s taken me a little longer than I would have wanted to, but I feel like I’ve taken some good steps.”

This feature originally appeared in the World Junior Preview edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.