In praise of Ryan Johansen

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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.”