In praise of Ryan Johansen


The star-studded 2010 NHL Entry Draft yielded a number of impact players — Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner and Cam Fowler, to name a few.

Now you can add another name to that list: Ryan Johansen.

Taken fourth overall by Columbus, Johansen is in the midst of a breakout season. He’s already racked up 14 goals — more than John Tavares and Jonathan Toews — and leads all Blue Jackets skaters with 29 points.

“He’s starting to come into every game and believes he can dominate those games,” Columbus teammate Brandon Dubinsky told NHL.com. “He’s a big-bodied player who has the skill level of a little guy.

“He’s definitely starting to take over games more and more.”

Johansen, who goes 6-foot-3, 223 pounds, proved that takeover ability on a couple of occasions within the last week. He tore the Jets apart in the faceoff circle on Dec. 16, going 13-for-19 while finishing with an assist in a 3-2 loss, then popped a pair of goals and was named first star in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Flyers.

Things didn’t always look so rosy for the 21-year-old, though.

The lockout-shortened ’13 campaign was a struggle — he was demoted to AHL Springfield mid-season — and the low point came when the Falcons made him a healthy scratch in the Calder Cup playoffs, a move approved by Jackets GM Jarmo Kekelainen.

“I think this is probably going to be a disappointment [to him], to say the least, maybe even a bit embarrassing,” the Jackets GM told the Columbus Dispatch. “Hopefully, he takes it the right way, gets to work this summer and shows us in the fall that he has taken it to heart and he’s ready to earn a spot on the [Blue Jackets].

“I don’t have any indication that he’d be unhappy. I really don’t care if he was unhappy.”

But with Johansen now starring for the Jackets, Kekalainen’s changed his tune.

“He’s just starting to realize the potential he has,” Kekalainen said. “The sky is the limit for [Johansen] with the size and skill he has, but there is so much more room for improvement even with the season he’s having.”

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.