Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
He was almost gone as quickly as he showed up. In his second-ever North American game back in May, Marlies forward Andreas Johnson entered the offensive zone with a puck sent to him by Connor Carrick, and while he tried to get around Dan Kelly, he was instead dealt a traumatic blow to the head.
He laid there, motionless. Right after people were done demanding Kelly’s head on a platter, they began questioning whether Toronto’s youngster would be able to play at a high level ever again. Two games into a new Toronto Marlies’ season and those questions appear to have answered; Andreas, who now goes by Johnsson as his surname, appears to be the same difference-maker many hoped him to be.
It wasn’t an easy road for him, though. Johnsson didn’t regain consciousness right away when he fell to the ice during that playoff game; it took until he entered the visiting dressing room at Times Union Center for him to come to a state of awareness.
He was diagnosed with a concussion, his first of his career. From there, he traveled back to Toronto but was required to stay in his hotel room for upwards of a week while being examined. “It was necessary,” Johnsson told Expressen back in June. “It was important to rest as much as I could to get back as quickly as possible. I couldn’t watch TV or use my phone.”
“I was pretty tired, too, so I couldn’t do much. I slept most of the days. It’s not fun to be injured.”
It took him a few weeks to get back into the rhythm of things, even just getting to walking and light workouts. But once he got to the healthy stage, it was right back to work. “A little longer rest, and then it was the same,” Johnsson told reporters at Ricoh Coliseum following Saturday’s home opener. “I worked out the same amount of weeks.”
Whatever he’s done in that time frame, it seems to have worked. In his first two games, Johnsson already has three powerplay goals on seven all-situations shots.
Johnsson was rather bashful about his efforts when asked about them. “It was nice to score on the powerplay. A goal helps me get more confidence about my place.” While not being complacent or overconfident is a good trait, there should be little question about him having the capability to play at this level.
Last year, the 21-year-old winger picked up 44 points in 52 games for Frolunda HC of the SHL, Sweden’s highest level league. His 19 goals and 25 assists placed him second on his team in points, and in a tie for sixth league-wide. Those above him were all veterans, however; he had eleven point lead over Montreal Canadiens prospect and Frolunda teammate Artturi Lehkonen, the next closest Under-23 point producer.
Most impressively, this doesn’t seem to be a one-off year for him either. Johnsson put up 35 points in his Age 20 season (tied for 18th all-time at that age), and 24 at 19 (tied for 31st). In his draft year, where the Leafs picked him at a shocking 202nd overall, Johnsson finished second in the nation’s top junior league with 54 points in 42 games.
When we profiled Johnsson for our Top Prospects series this summer (we had ranked him 7th in the organization; 2nd among those not currently with the Leafs), Jessica Pincente described him as a quick, opportunistic player with above-the-curve Hockey IQ and anticipation. You saw that a lot in this weekend’s goals; two involved him smacking home rebounds in scoring chance areas, and his second goal on Saturday came from him entering the zone, pausing to establish a group to cycle the puck with, and getting into a perfect position for a one-timer.
While it’s still early, and these are powerplay goals we’re talking about, it’s nice to see that his skill, intelligence, and speed is already paying off at this level. He’s already put up a point-per-game in a stronger league; if he doesn’t find his way to the NHL sooner than expected, there’s a very real chance that he could be one of the Marlies’, if not the league’s premier forwards in his rookie year.
That’s especially true if this play represents him without full preparation, as he seemed to imply on Saturday. “I felt good, but I feel like there’s a structure in place, and I feel that I have a lot of work to do.”