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Andreas Johnson at 21: It's been a very good year

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It's been a very good year so far for Leafs prospect Andreas Johnson and his team, Frölunda HC of the SHL.

Tommy Holl

The Swedish league is on their Christmas break having played approximately half the season, and Frölunda sit second to Skellefteå AIK.

Andreas Johnson sits seventh in the league in points and is tied with teammate Joel Lundqvist for third in goals, while leading the league in power play points with 16.

In a year where the SHL is experiencing high average goals per game, Johnson's team is the biggest goal scorer of all. They have a league-leading 101 goals while allowing 56, and no other team comes close to that differential.

It's no surprise that a hot prospect on a high-event team is challenging the leaders in the point standings. But what about within his own team? How does Johnson compare to other high-flying Frölunda forwards?

First, a look at ice time to get to know the guys. From left to right, you have the most recent top line LW, C and RW followed by the second line and the third.

EQ: even strength. PP: power play.

The top line of captain Joel Lundqvist with wingers Ryan Lasch and Mats Rosseli Olsen play the most, and Johnson's line, centred by Johan Sundström with Spencer Abbott on the right wing, play consistently as the second line these days. Montréal prospect Artturi Lehkonen is the star on the third line.

Johnson's average even strength time on the ice per game (TOI/Gm) is low, reflecting his climb up the depth chart. Johnson, Sundström and Abbott started the season on the fourth line, and the three of them play very well together and have progressed together quickly. All four lines in Swedish hockey tend to get similar minutes.

Johnson also plays on the top power play unit with Lundqvist, Lasch, Abbott and defenceman Henrik Tömmernes. These five guys are good, and they spend a lot of time on the man advantage getting a lot of goals. They have the most power play TOI/Gm in the league, and the five of them lead in low TOI/+ amongst players with substantial power play minutes. (This is PP TOI divided by the number of PP goals scored while that skater is on the ice.)

Johnson is challenging Lundqvist as the most productive man on the power play, and he's doing it by shooting a lot. He does that less well at even strength.

Shots lead to goals, and the points comparison is where we see how Johnson stacks up.

Artturi Lehkonen is nipping hard at his heels and is doing better at even strength scoring, but he can't touch Johnson on the power play. Meanwhile, Johnson seems to be conceding the even strength scoring duties to Sundström and Abbott too much. They both shoot at a higher rate and are getting assists and goals more than Johnson is.

Johnson and his boys are very good, but they are blocked from moving up more by the top line. There's been some rotating personnel on the left wing, but Lundqvist, who's shooting at 23.6%, and Lasch are generating even strength goals at a slightly higher rate than all those young guys clamouring for their jobs. Lundqvist, at 33, is having a career year and has already scored more goals than he has in an SHL season since he was 20 years old. They'll need to cool off a lot before the second or third line can steal any of their minutes.

I might think Johnson needs to shoot the puck a lot more, but his play hasn't gone unnoticed. Pär Mårts, the coach of Tre Kronnor, scouted Johnson the night he got his hat trick—not to be confused with the next night where he only had two goal—and when he needed an injury replacement for the Channel One Cup, Johnson was the man. Johnson is the second youngest player on the team, and this will be his second time wearing the Three Crowns at the men's level.

If he keeps up his scoring pace for the second half of the SHL season, he could have 28 goals and 50 points, a big jump from last year's numbers. If he improves his even strength play, it's possible he could do even better.

It's extremely difficult to project Johnson's SHL points onto an imaginary season in the AHL. He's steadily improved through his career, and he can go as far as his skill and determination can take him.

Next year, we'll get to see what he can do on Toronto ice.

Special thanks to Patrik B of Habs Eyes on the Prize who talked over Frölunda's season with me. Any errors and omissions are my own.

All data is from SHL.se. Per 60 minutes stats were calculated by me from available base counts and TOI averages.