It's been a crazy few years for Andreas Johnson.
After being diagnosed with asthma, Johnson's status as a legitimate NHL prospect was in question.
An SHL Rookie of the Year award, a Champions Hockey League (CHL) goal-scoring title (11 goals in 12 games), and inaugural CHL points per game lead (2.08) later and Johnson has secured his position among the organization's most talented, promising young players.
Committed to return to the SHL's Frolunda HC for one final season, the diminutive former seventh round pick remains at least a year away from pushing for an NHL job.
"You see how [Dallas Stars prospect] Mattias Janmark developed. He just gets better here in Frölunda. I see no reason not to stay." - Andreas Johnson in an interview with Johan Rylander in May.
For the young sniper, the return to Frolunda presents a chance to play a starring role in the low-scoring league. Last season, Johnson was among the league-leaders in shots on goal (153) and goals (22) in his 55 regular season games.
In the playoffs, Johnson's production and role were stunted by a knee on knee collision in the first round that that kept him out of the lineup until Game 3 against the Vaxjo Lakers in the second round. His Frolunda team, expected to compete for the championship, subsequently fell in the second round.
In the context of his Frolunda teammates, Johnson's production has been near-remarkable, with eight more regular season goals than his closest teammate in 2014-2015 and nine game winning goals (the most in the SHL).
Here's an excerpt of my evaluation of Johnson from April in the midst of the playoff run:
In the SHL, Johnson's success was equally impressive. His 35 points (22 goals, 13 assists) in 55 SHL games was good enough for third in U24 scoring but it also made him the league's highest-scoring U21 forward.
This, in a league that boasts talents like Jakub Vrana (1st round, Washington), Lukas Wallmark (4th round, Carolina), Adrian Kempe (1st round, Los Angeles), and teammate Artturi Lehkonen (2nd round, Montreal), none of whom were close to matching his production.
Johnson, an incredibly gifted shooter, has an unbelievable knack for finding open space. Because of this, he consistently gives himself time when he receives a pass to either set up and pick his spot in the net, or unload a heavy (and I mean, *heavy*) and accurate one-timer.
He's always open.
Beyond the incredible release, and the elusiveness that allows him to use it, Johnson is also an excellent skater, and a pursues the puck relentlessly.
While undersized, Johnson's ability as a shooter and puck carrier (he's got slick hands and a fluid, crisp stride) make a dynamic, shot-first scorer. What he's done, at the age of 18, 19 and 20 in the SHL, has been impressive, and there's little that suggest it won't translate to North America, particularly considering how young he still is. - Scott Wheeler, videos of play and injury included/broken down.
Finally signed to his entry-level contract this summer, the 20-year-old winger's future is now fully retained by the Leafs organization, eliminating speculation that he may stay in the SHL longterm.
And he doesn't appear to be slowing down either, having registered three assists in his first CHL game of the season in a 9-1 win over England's Sheffield Steelers on August 20 in Group N action, playing at times with former Marlies forward Spencer Abbott.
Able to score in a variety of ways, Johnson can handle the puck at full-flight through the neutral zone and release in stride, or use his best asset -- his one-timer -- to his advantage with defenders in close proximity to beat a goal.
Note how he easily steps around the defender who forces him on the entry and fires a high shot far-side in the first clip, before releasing to a different location (hard and a foot off the ice) on the one-touch play in CHL action (a six-point standout performance) below.
My fourth highest ranked Leafs prospect (there was an argument to be made that he was the franchise's second best pre-NHL asset before Marner and Kapanen were in the fold) in this year's Top 25 Under 25, Johnson has the transferable offensive ability and skating to be more than just a one-shot threat at the NHL level due to his puck handling.
Don't be surprised if he's challenging for a spot or scoring in bunches in training camp in a year's time.
Frolunda kicks off its SHL campaign on September 19 against Rogle BK. Their second CHL game goes today (August 28) against Finland's JYP Jyvaskyla. You can find updates on Johnson throughout the year at @scottcwheeler.