When Andreas Johnsson burst onto the North American scene in 2016, three years after he was drafted in the seventh round, we didn’t really expect much from him. Maybe a grinder who can provide energy and penalty killing on the fourth line. Maybe he can be a competent linemate to Nazem Kadri. But over his two seasons in the AHL, Johnsson showed us that he had legitimate top-six potential and proved as much in his season and a half so far with the Leafs.
As per the votes, many of us believe Johnsson is in the tier above the fringe forwards and defensemen we talked about to great lengths this week. He’s not in front of Rasmus Sandin for some reason. Young defensemen aside, Johnsson is in the tier right behind the Big Three with Kasperi Kapanen and Alexander Kerfoot. All three got very similar contracts this summer from the Maple Leafs and will be hoping to nail down the third line and possibly fight for ice time in the top-six behind Zach Hyman.
The split between Johnsson and Kerfoot was quite close by the end, but the difference between Johnsson and Dermott was even tighter. Dermott was .06 of a percentage point lower in average rank. Numbers five and six, who will be revealed next week are also very close.
Last Season Refresher
After winning the 2018 Calder Cup MVP for the Marlies, Johnsson kicked off his first NHL season with 20 goals in 73 games, plus 23 assists for 43 points. Prorated to 82 games, that’s 22 goals and 48 points.
Following a slow start to his season where he was healthy scratched in favour of more experienced players in a few games in late October, Johnsson eventually got himself onto the third line with Par Lindholm and Connor Brown after weeks of work in practice. Once there, Johnsson showed that he can play in a defensive role, producing strong shot differentials in poor zone starts. Included in his time was this famous first period hat trick against former Marlies teammate Calvin Pickard and the Philadelphia Flyers.
That night got Johnsson promoted to the first line with Kapanen and Auston Matthews. Together, the former Marlies deadly duo and reigning rookie of the year put up strong numbers as a trio. Then, when William Nylander joined the team, Johnsson moved up to the John Tavares line with Mitch Marner. At this point, Johnsson was in a groove and fully solidified himself as a top-six scorer. His assist numbers that were floundering in the bottom-six shot up.
There was a brief spell when Mike Babcock made a lot of changes to the lineup in January, all in an attempt to get Nazem Kadri, who was having a poor season, going. He, Nylander, and Brown were tasked with getting Kadri going again, but it was for nought as the team’s 3C got injured. From there, Johnsson rode out the remaining 20 games with Matthews and Kapanen, followed by Matthews and Nylander (yes, they played together, a lot, and they did well).
In the playoffs, Johnsson didn’t quite have it to produce more than two primary assists on Auston Matthews goals at 5v5. They, with Kapanen, got out-shot and out-scored on by Boston’s second line adding to the growing list of playoff disappointments. Based on the eye-test, that line really needed Nylander on the right wing. They couldn’t drive possession out of their zone and into the offensive zone even with rockets strapped to their skates.
What the Numbers Say (with and without colourful blobs!)
Johnsson had a great season. He was near the top of the team leaderboards in shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, goals, and expected goals. If it wasn’t for one Willy Ny, he’d be first in CF% and SF%. He had a truly great first season playing with some great players and showing that he can put in the work in his own end too.
Wow, still can't believe William Nylander led the Maple Leafs in shot attempts, shots, and expected goals differentials last season.— Summer Lad ️ (@HardevLad) August 23, 2019
Based on Evolving Wild’s RAPM charts, Johnsson had a strong season in terms of scoring luck (which we will discuss) and was very good at being positive on both ends of the ice in terms of shot attempts. The next step for the soon-to-be 25-year-old is to work on that expected goals against number. In his defense, Matthews also needs to improve that area of the ice if they’re going to play together as much as they did last season.
In terms of isolated threat, Johnsson graded out as a slightly positive player. He was slightly above average in terms of offense and defense. His shooting from the slot is good, but it can get better. All in all, it’s good that he shoots, but not as much as Matthews when they play together.
The Future and Regression
However, there is something to be slightly worried about when it comes to Johnsson, and it involves that evil word regression. Johnsson had a personal shooting percentage of 15.4% in all situations this season. That was second highest on the team only to Tavares. At 5v5, his PDO (on ice shooting percentage plus save percentage) was 103.5 — fourth highest on the team (you’ll never guess who’s above him).
Johnsson is not a star, and while he does have a good shot and his heat maps show that he’s not afraid to go to dirty areas to get chances, he’s probably not going to keep shooting 15% at 5v5 for the rest of his career. For comparison, of the non-star players who shot 15% or more in 2017-18, most of them saw their shooting percentages drop between 2-5% the following season. In the extreme cases like Nick Schmaltz and our friendly neighbourhood Kerfoot, they saw their sh% drop from the low-20s to the single digits. Yikes.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried for the regression to come for Johnsson next season. Maybe with a full season among players not named Connor Brown, he’ll be able to add a few goals, but for a winger who isn’t a primary asset on the power play, it might be hard to see him score 20 goals again.
The wild card here is where Johnsson plays next season. The Kadri trade indicates that Babcock and the new coaching staff plans to play their two elite centres more every night, if Johnsson isn’t on one of those lines, his counting stats could drop, despite playing with talented players like Kerfoot and Kapanen. There’s only so much ice and puck to be had in a game.
How many goals does Johnsson score next season?
This poll is closed
Rocket Richard, Baby
15 and fewer
He’s the next Connor Brown