Erik Johnson was taken with the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and inherited the heightened expectations that come with that role. He needed time to adjust to the NHL and grow as a defenseman, but patience is not something top selections usually get from fans.
The 26-year-old has learned over the years though that impatience, especially on the ice, is not conducive to success.
“I’m just letting the game come to me,” Johnson told the Denver Post. “And I’m not trying to do anything too special or too fancy. I’m just making good hockey reads. I’m not trying to force it.
“In the past, I’ve tried to force it. And you kind of do more harm than good that way. For me, I’ve just used my skills and instincts and take it from there.”
That approach has paid off as he’s already tied his career-high of 10 goals and has 20 points in 37 contests.
“It almost looks like, when you’re watching him, that he took the expectations off himself and just goes out there and plays,” Colorado captain Gabe Landeskog said. “It’s a lot of fun to watch. Because right now, he’s one of the best defensemen I’ve seen this year.”
Of course, this hasn’t come out of nowhere. Johnson took a big step forward in 2013-14 too. This is just the next phase as he cements his standing as one of the league’s top blueliners.
There isn’t a lot that’s gone right for Colorado this season, but Johnson’s success has been one of the few silver linings.