It sounds weird to say this for a fourth round pick, but Victor Johansson being taken by Toronto in the fourth round may the most shocking draft pick I can remember happening since I started following the draft – by any team in the NHL. I've seen other picks, including those in the first round, where people are shocked a player was taken, but everyone has heard of the player.

By the time the draft comes around now, I will have around 200 names in my head. I may not know a lot about them, or anything beyond their name, but I follow and track and check the stats and scouting reports for more than 200 players. And I can honestly say that when Johansson's name was announced as a Toronto pick, I was completely stumped.

Not only had I never heard of him before, I had never seen or heard his name mentioned by any scout at all even once this season. When we were putting together the news article for the pick here, I always supply whatever scouting reports and highlights I can find. I pay for draft guides from the likes of McKeen's, Elite Prospects, FC Hockey, and so on. These cover – literally, actually – hundreds of prospects over tens of thousands of words on scouting reports and information.

Not a single one of them included Johansson. That's how obscure as a player he was when the pick was made. I did see a small handful of scouts express surprise because they did know of him, but never even dreamed of including him in any rankings or scouting reports.

So who is this international man of mystery that Toronto took with their second pick of the draft?


Position: Left-shot defenseman
League: J20 Nationell
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 147 lbs
Birth date: Apr 25, 2006

Honestly, if there wasn't a lot known or said about Johansson in his draft year, there sure isn't a lot from before in terms of his history. He has never been a very strong offensive producer. The most points he's ever had in a season came back in 2021/22 when he was 15 years old, he had a combined 19 points in 32 games between two U16 leagues. Since then, he's had 4 points in a combined 34 games as a 16 year old, then had 10 points in a combined 42 games this season.

If the number of games played seems low, it's for good reason. One of the few bits of important information from Johansson's history that I learned from the little bits that have been written about him since the Leafs drafted came from Joshua Kloke at The Athletic, who noted: "Johansson suffered multiple injuries as a teenager and lost valuable time in the gym."

It doesn't look like his injuries were so serious that he was missing huge segments of a season at a time, but since his weight – Johansson himself confirmed he weighed in at 147 at the development camp – is such a big question and concern for him, it's as good an explanation for why he is so skinny as any.

Especially since Victor has two older brothers, who have also already been drafted into the NHL and who have similar builds to each other. Simon, drafted in the 5th round by Minnesota in 2018, was listed as 6'2" and 183 lbs when he was drafted and is now 194 lbs. Anton, drafted in the 4th round by Detroit back in 2022, was listed as 6'4" and 179 lbs and is now 196 lbs. So both brothers did wind up adding a good amount of weight since their draft year, just not nearly as much as Victor will need to in order to catch up. Thankfully, he does have the height and frame to fill in.

The other detail is that the three Johanssons have a pretty famous hockey father, Thomas. He was a professional Swedish defenseman that played for 17 seasons in their top professional league, and for Team Sweden internationally for 10 years. Since retiring as a player, he has worked his way up in the front office of the SHL league, and as of now is the GM of Leksands – which is the club that Victor plays for in junior, and the SHL team that his brother Anton is still playing for.


Boxscore stats, listed weights, and family ties are all well and good, but who exactly is Victor Johansson as a player? What is his style? What are his strengths and weaknesses? There still isn't a lot that's been written about him, but there is at least more now than there was when he was drafted.

The thing about Johansson is that he has a lot of potential, but is extremely raw , perhaps the most raw of all prospects in this draft. Those injuries that apparently delayed his physical growth is holding back the development of much of the rest of his game – but we'll get to that.

The one thing that is said about Johansson is that he is a very intelligent player and he works hard on the ice. Honestly, I could believe that without ever having watched him – how else could someone who weighed in the 130's or 140's in the past season survive on the ice in one of the better European junior leagues?

Here's what Wes Clarke had to say about Johansson in the post-draft press conference:

"What we like most about Victor is that he's very early in his development curve. Strong intelligence, strong competitiveness, and excellent defensive instincts. Think there's a lot of room to grow there, and he's got a couple older brothers too, that have shown well over the years as well."

Here is the main blurb from the one scouting report I've read on Johansson, from Taahaa Lone, who works for Recruit Scouting as a scout:

Johansson, to me, comes off as a prototypical Swedish defenseman, but in a very, very raw form. He’s an ultra-smooth player — something I have come to expect out of players from this region, but a trait that impresses me every time. He’s very mobile, his hands are very fluid, and he has good stickwork.
In fact, one thing that will excite certain Leafs fans will be the flashes of physicality that Johansson shows. I don’t think he’s Kronwall, but he doesn’t seem afraid of switching from his stick to using his body to stop forwards in their tracks.
He is fairly poised and skilled on the puck whenever I see him take control. I understand that he may not be capable of muscling through the opposition. However, I am quite shocked that he doesn’t have more production at this level, significantly less than his brothers at the same age. He is very passive offensively, despite potentially having the skills to be a top-level offensive defenseman.
Perhaps it is due to his focus on defensive positioning, which is respectable… but not a money-maker at this level. He is clearly very smart and skilled defensively.

From what Lone wrote above, and from the little bit I could tell from Johansson's play at the development camp scrimmage, his future potential is that of a solid, all-around, two-way defenseman. He likely won't be spectacular in any one area, but could eat minutes, play good defense, move the puck well, and kill penalties.

What I like about what Lone said, and I did see a bit of this at the scrimmage, is that even if Johansson does not yet have the physical ability to execute some plays to adequate effectiveness, he is trying to do the right things. This is true both offensively and defensively. He will step up to make a good hit, even if he's not strong enough to knock the opponent over instead of himself.

In that sense, having already developed the right instincts and intelligence to compensate for his deficient physical tools is not a bad thing. It means he'll be making the right decisions and be able to execute the plays he tries once he catches up and develops physically.



All that raw potential is a double edged sword for Johansson. It all comes back to the same kinds of things I've said about other Toronto prospects in the past for specific issues. Skating is an easy one, as I've said it about Chadwick and Villenueve. The problem is that while you can reasonably expect a prospect to improve in various skills or physical tools from when they are drafted to when they are in their early/mid-20's, where their level is at the time they're drafted matters a lot. It's not reasonable to expect a guy to go from a below average skater to an elite one.

That same general idea applies to Johansson for me. On the one hand, developing physically – as in, adding muscle and weight – is perhaps one of the easiest things to project. At his height, with the physical builds of his brothers, and with injuries reportedly being a reason why his physical development has been delayed, it's not unreasonable to expect him to get to around 180-190 lbs, especially if he grows another inch or two. It's also not unreasonable to expect that a lot of those skills that are dependent on things like muscle and strength – shot, skating, physical defense, and everything that uses those – will all get better over time as he builds that muscle.

On the other hand, Johansson just has so far to go in in improving so many areas of his game. Let's say that all skills are rated out of 10, and Johansson's is limited at something like 3-4 across the board right now. Is it reasonable to expect them all to grow to 7 or 8? I don't think it is. There's too much that has to go right, with so much opportunity for anything to go wrong and derail, limit, or stall development in specific or all areas. What if he keeps getting hurt because he's still so light?

For all the physical development Johansson makes, he could turn out to just not be that good. That doesn't have to be across the board. Remove any limitations from his lack of weight, as of right now, it could be he turns out to be a really good defensive defender but just average at skating and below average offensively. Whatever his realistically attainable outcomes are, we just don't know how good he can be yet. What we do know, is that as of now he's got a lot of problems.

Because Johansson might be smart and have a lot of two-way potential, but I saw things that concerned me at the development camp scrimmage. I'm not going to hang my hat on any of it, because it's just one random scrimmage for crying out loud. But what I did see was him continually miss a lot of passes, even simple ones. Like straight up missing his man, passing it to empty ice, or passing it to the other team. Even defensively, for all the intelligence, I was baffled by whatever he was doing here.


Johansson is wearing #32 in white.


But again, I am not going to form strong opinions on Johansson's game just on one exhibition game. Not when I knew little to nothing about him before and since. Especially since he also made some pretty good defensive plays throughout, such as those I included in the strengths section. But I am going to tuck away all the tidbits I saw, the good and the bad, and see what turns into trends next season when I can watch a stretch of serious games rather than just one.

My overall assessment is that I can see the building blocks of the player that I think Toronto's scouting team saw. Johansson is reportedly someone that Toronto's longtime Swedish scout, Thommie Bergman, really pushed for. He has such a good history finding value in later round picks (Stralman, Komarov, Gunnarsson, Johnsson, Engvall, Holmberg) that I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt to start with. My only problem is that those building blocks haven't been assembled yet, and are still in the packaging and I don't even know if all the necessary ones are there or if any are missing!

So Johansson is still very mysterious to me. I have at least some idea of who he is as a player now that I could watch him actually play, and I am intrigued enough by the bits I've watched and read to have him near the top of my list of Toronto's prospects to follow next year.

But I'll tell you one thing I know absolutely for certain about him... Just look at how adorable he is! He's smiling so much, he has such genuine and funny answers, and just radiates major golden retriever energy. Or maybe a golden retriever puppy energy, to be specific.

Thanks for reading!

I put a lot of work into my prospect articles here, both for the draft and Toronto's prospects. I do it as a fun hobby for me, and I'd probably do it in some capacity even if PPP completely ceased to exist. But if you like reading my work, some support would go a long way! I pay for a few streaming services (CHL, NCAA, USHL, the occasional TSN options for international tournaments that are broadcast) to be able to reliably watch these prospects in good quality streams. I also pay for some prospect-specific resources, such as tracking data and scouting reports from outlets like Elite Prospects, Future Considerations, McKeen's Hockey, The Athletic, and more.

Being able to get paid for this helps me dedicate more time and resources to it, rather than to second/third jobs. And whatever money I make here, a lot of I reinvest back into my prospect work through in those streaming and scouting services. Like I said, I'd be doing whatever I can afford for this anyway, so any financial help I get through this is greatly appreciated!

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