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Canadiens 2016 Top 25 Under 25: #24 Ryan Johnston

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The younger brother of an Olympic gold medalist is an intriguing prospect.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Johnston is the younger brother of two-time Olympic gold medalist, Clarkson Cup champion, and Canadian National Team member Rebecca Johnston.

They are actually two of six siblings, and even Ryan admits that his older sister will be on a different level.

“Rebecca’s the most accomplished player of the six siblings, and she always will be,” Ryan told Sportsnet before suiting up for his first NHL game last season.

He was an undrafted free agent out of Colgate University last July, and he quickly impressed the Montreal Canadiens at the team’s development camp as an invite. Johnston was planning on going back to Colgate for his senior year, but when a contract offer from the Canadiens came along, he jumped on the opportunity.

He continued to shine at the team’s rookie tournament, got a shot at the Canadiens’ training camp, and even played one pre-season game before being assigned to the AHL.

Johnston 2016 t25u25 header

During the AHL training camp, he suffered a herniated disc which forced him to miss the first half of the season. He ended up playing 37 games for the St. John’s IceCaps, picking up 12 assists. Due to the rash of injuries he was recalled to the NHL late in the year and played three games with the Canadiens.

Votes

Johnston actually had the biggest spread between his highest and lowest vote among players in the Top 25. He had a vote as high as 13 while his low was 36. In total, he had five votes in the Top 20 and six votes outside the Top 25.

Top 25 Under 25 History

This is Johnston’s first appearance in the Top 25 Under 25. He signed in July, and was technically eligible for last year’s list, but he was not with the team until after the ballot was created.

Strengths

His size is seen an issue, but he is able to skate very well and make good passes to create offence for his team.

He wasn’t a huge point producer in the NCAA, which is historically a low-scoring league. Johnston had 42 points (with just five goals) in 110 NCAA games.

He is a great skater, and a guy who could potentially drive an offence when he’s on. He also offers a complementary skill set to some of the more defensive blue-liners on the IceCaps roster this season.

Weaknesses

Johnston is listed at 5’10” and 176 lbs, and he probably isn’t even that big, lending some reasons to why he was not drafted.

Obviously, being a defenceman, that does make a difference in how effective he can be in defensive-zone battles, and he will always have something to prove as he fights to make it to the next level.

Even though his skating and puck play makes him look like a player who can contribute offensively, he’s never been much of a goal-scorer. In his last 150 games, spanning four seasons at the NCAA, AHL, and NHL levels, he only has five goals, or one every 30 games.

It’s a bit of a strange skill set for an undersized defenceman, but with the way he can drive the puck up ice, he will provide enough opportunities for his team to score that you won’t notice he’s not doing it himself.

Projection

With the significant amount of turnover amongst the Canadiens defence at the AHL level, Johnston will be one of only four returning defenders to the IceCaps. He will be alongside fellow returnees Joel Hanley, Josiah Didier, and Brett Lernout and will likely be expected to take on a bigger role.

Like last year, when he was the 15th defenceman used by the team, if he sees time at the NHL level, that is likely not a great sign for the Canadiens. He should be much higher up the depth chart this year, though he will spend a lot more time in the AHL before being considered for a spot on the NHL roster.

This will be Johnston’s last year in the T25U25 as he turns 25 in February, but his upside makes him an interesting player in the organization. His offensive skill makes him one of the few potential replacements who can help that part of the game, and with some additional experience may develop into an asset.