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2017 Top 25 Under 25 #11: Andreas Johnsson

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The Swedish sniper jumps to the edge of the top 10.

NHL: Preseason-Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Swedish winger Andreas Johnsson has long been a prized player in the Leafs’ system, with eager Leafs fans keeping an eye on his development in Sweden. This was his first year on this side of the ocean, and after some difficult beginnings, Johnsson raised his game to the cusp of the NHL.

Andreas Johnsson is our #11.

Background

You know how every draft, some fans want to spend all the late-round picks on zippy little scoring forwards? Andreas Johnsson is the kind of guy they’re hoping for. Toronto picked him up in 202nd overall (!) in 2013, and he now looks to be the best pick of an otherwise very poor Leafs draft.

AJ, as I will call him in this paragraph and then never again, is 5’10”, and struggled with asthma at times as a teenager; these were factors in him falling as far as he did. He’s since addressed his asthma with medication, and he’s addressed his height by being a good hockey player in the 21st century. He can play either wing (he’s a left-hand shot.) Most striking: he’s outperformed his faint-hope draft position every season since we got him.

Johnsson broke out in the Swedish Hockey League in 2014, winning Rookie of the Year for Frolunda. Our former Commander in Chief Scott Wheeler wrote an insightful and very favourable profile on Johnsson back in April 2015, and his optimism about Johnsson’s game translating to the AHL has proven warranted.

(Before anyone gives Scott a hard time about describing Johnsson as potentially second only to Nylander as a scorer in the Leafs’ system, remember this was before the 2015 draft, so certain gentlemen near the top of our list hadn’t arrived yet.)

Johnsson is one of those elusive forwards who zooms around the offensive zone finding seams and making plays; better yet, once he gets where he’s going he’s got a nasty shot on him. Even better than that, he’s dogged in pursuit of the puck, regularly streaking into the slot to pounce on a loose puck and rifle it. Johnsson will score pretty goals. Johnsson will score garbage goals. Johnsson does not discriminate in his devouring goal hunger.

In the early months of 2016-17, though, things looked rough. Johnsson had some early struggles adapting to the North American game, possibly compounded by the residual effects of a concussion suffered at the end of last season. It was possible, in the early going, to lose track of him a system full of middling offensive wingers. But both Johnsson and the Marlies turned up the heat in the second half, and Johnsson made a jump up the goal-scoring ranks to finish second on the team. (Keep in mind he did have a sizeable games-played advantage over Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen, who have probably passed him otherwise.)

Ultimately, Johnsson’s shot totals were good, at just under two per game; he shot less than the top forwards on the team, but his most frequent linemate was also shot machine Kerby Rychel, so Johnsson may have been deferring to his winger at times. Andreas’ shooting percentage was in the high-but-reasonable range—14.5%, which is not too crazy for an AHL sniper. Nothing about his offence jumps out as unsustainable; his calling card isn’t going to be his defence, but he’s been improving enough in that respect. The signs on Johnsson all look pretty good.

The Video

I’ve used multiple highlight reels from Seer Video in this year’s Top 25, and I would like to now wonder as to what the creature is at the start of the videos. My guess is that it’s Andalite warrior Aximili Esgarrouth-Isthil from the Animorphs series. I feel like I’m pretty on point here.

Oh, right, hockey. Johnsson shows to great effect in this highlight reel; I hate to fall back on the vague term of him “having a nose for the net”, but he does. He has the talent set to exploit opportunities when they come to him, and I really don’t think there’s a hole in his o-zone game. If you’ll permit a comparison between two Swedes: he’s obviously several notches down the talent ladder from Nylander, but he’s similarly a complete offensive threat.

The Stats

Andreas Johnsson Stats via Elite Prospects

 Season Team League GP G A TP PIM      Playoffs GP G A TP PIM 
 Season Team League GP G A TP PIM      Playoffs GP G A TP PIM 
 2009-2010 Göteborg TV-Pucken 8 9 4 13 10 |
Frölunda HC U16 U16 SM 8 11 6 17 6 |
Frölunda HC J18 J18 Elit 5 1 1 2 0 |
 2010-2011 Frölunda HC J18 J18 Elit 12 9 9 18 8 |
Frölunda HC J18 J18 Allsvenskan 15 14 13 27 18 | Playoffs 5 3 1 4
Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 30 9 5 14 4 | Playoffs 3 0 1 1
 2011-2012 Frölunda HC J18 J18 Elit 3 3 5 8 2 |
Frölunda HC J18 J18 Allsvenskan 3 6 0 6 2 | Playoffs 4 2 4 6
Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 42 19 13 32 75 | Playoffs 2 0 0 0
 2012-2013 Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 42 23 31 54 54 | Playoffs 4 1 1 2 12 
Frölunda HC ET 1 0 0 0 0 |
Frölunda HC SHL 7 1 0 1 0 | Playoffs 5 0 0 0
Sweden U19 (all) International-Jr 4 2 3 5 8 |
 2013-2014 Frölunda HC ET 6 5 3 8 6 |
Frölunda HC J20 SuperElit 4 1 4 5 0 |
Frölunda HC SHL 44 15 9 24 2 | Playoffs 7 1 0 1
Sweden U20 WJC-20 7 3 3 6 6 |
Sweden U20 (all) International-Jr 15 9 4 13 10 |
 2014-2015 Frölunda HC SHL 55 22 13 35 34 | Playoffs 8 2 2 4
Frölunda HC Champions HL 12 11 14 25 8 |
Sweden EHT 3 1 0 1 2 |
Sweden (all) International 3 1 0 1 2 |
 2015-2016 Frölunda HC SHL 52 19 25 44 20 | Playoffs 16 2 2 4
Frölunda HC Champions HL 13 3 7 10 10 |
Toronto Marlies AHL 0 0 0 0 0 | Playoffs 2 0 0 0
Sweden EHT 2 0 1 1 0 |
Sweden (all) International 2 0 1 1 0 |
 2016-2017 Toronto Marlies AHL 75 20 27 47 42 | Playoffs 11 6 0 6 13 
 2017-2018 Toronto Marlies AHL - - - - - |
Player statistics powered by www.eliteprospects.com

The Voters

Johnsson was universally ranked in the top 14 of our Top 25. After a long string of players who had their lowest ballots in the 20s, Carl Grundstrom and Andreas Johnsson mark the transition to the next class of prospects—guys universally agreed to be nearing the higher end.

Kevin offers a balanced take on Johnsson:

I carried high expectations for Andreas Johnsson last season, but he was a major disappointment in the early going. Despite his status as a former top goal scorer in the SHL, he scored just 18 points in his first 41 games. All of the sudden, something just seemed to click, and he was a point per game player for much of the second half.

Johnsson’s calling card is his wrist shot, and he looks ready to become a triggerman on an NHL powerplay. He can receive a pass and fire his shot in one motion, and this ability to score off a one-timer beats opposing goaltenders before they have time to set up and react. He also boasts above average speed, and he should have no problem keeping up at the NHL’s pace of play.

Johnsson is not too physically imposing, but he regularly showcased a strong lower half and a touch of grit. He displayed a willingness to fight for positioning in the slot, and he won a reasonable amount of puck battles for a player who is slightly undersized. I do not see him as a top-end playmaker, but he could earn a spot at the NHL level if he continues to play a well-rounded game and make the most of his chances.

He will turn 23 in November, so I would like to see him crack the NHL lineup sooner rather than later. I do not see top line upside here, and he’s not enough of a sure thing to crack my top 10, but he showed enough promise in the second half to place him anywhere in the 11-15 range.

Katya had similar thoughts to Kevin, for the most part

I really largely agree with what Kevin said. His analysis of his Marlies year is spot on.

Where I differ is that I didn't have great hopes for him. I ranked him low last year, and still think that was valid. He had no 5on5 game to speak of, coming out of Sweden, and failed pretty hard against the top teams in the playoffs. I've said this before, but he was desperately bad in the SHL playoffs his final year.

But once he got his feet under him this year, he really did develop a game that worked on the Marlies. And he is tough, relentless and a bit gritty. 120 grit maybe? Not quite the highly abrasive 60 grit of Grundström.

By the playoffs, the exact time Johnsson faded two years running in the SHL, he was top three on the team.

I had Johnsson 12th, and he marked a clear dividing line for me. Andreas Johnsson may be an “AAAA” player—the Seth Griffith-style forward who seems great in the AHL but can’t hack in the top league—but I think he’s shown he’s at least ready to seriously compete for an NHL job. He’s the first player on the list I believe he is more likely than not ready to be an NHL player as of this instant. I’d love to see him get a chance in an offensive role soon.

Unfortunately for Johnsson, the same winger logjam that bedevils much of the list impacts him. Given he’s still waiver-exempt, there’s almost no chance he makes the big club out of camp, so he’s probably getting another year on the Marlies. Given he turns 23 in November, Johnsson now needs to be a truly dominant offensive player to force the Leafs’ hand into promoting him, or he needs the Leafs to clear out their forwards considerably before 2018. Still, Andreas is a dangerous player, and if he gets a chance with some of the many great offensive forwards the Leafs have, I think he’s going to dazzle.