If teams are looking for a left-handed defenceman who can move the puck, Albert Johansson is yet another target in this draft.
Birthplace: Karlstad, Sweden
Weight: 168 lbs.
Team: Färjestad BK J20
The Swedish blue-liner split his time between Färjestad’s Junior team and the national team for various tournaments and friendlies in his draft year. He didn’t manage the same offensive impact he had with his club team in international competition, where he often played a secondary role on the team, but he still showcased the skills he can bring to the team that selects him.
Johansson is an aggressive defender who uses his stick well to break up plays. Thanks to strong gaps, he does so early in the neutral zone when defending off the rush. He will need to add more deception to his pokechecks (not giving away his full reach and using sharp straightaway motions instead of large sweeps) but his confidence and smart reads already allow him to create turnovers or at least prevent controlled entries into his zone.
In the clips below, a collection of sequences from the World Under-18 Championship and Johansson’s regular season, the defenceman turns defence into offence, carrying the puck or finding pass outlets after stopping the opposition.
The first sequence is a good example of Johansson’s tendency to go for it when he sees a chance to cut opposing attempts. The Russian forward he is up against receives a pass in the neutral zone, but it is just out of reach, forcing him to look down to regain control. In the brief time that takes, Johansson jumps up in the neutral zone and pushes the puck away from the opponent’s control. He then takes it into the opposing end, which leads to a scoring chance.
The last clip displays Johansson’s high energy in the defensive zone. He battles, pushes players away from the blue paint, and slams his stick over enemy ones to prevent access to the puck. He isn’t a perfect defender due to certain lapses in awareness, but he couldn’t be accused of not being engaged in his role.
In that same sequence, Johansson successively finds two outlets from pressure as he remains calm and outworks the opposition. In the second one, he takes the puck out of the zone himself.
Johansson’s skating, strength against the forecheck, and, above all, handling abilities allow him to play a solid puck-moving role from the back end. At the U-18s he made some great rushes for Team Sweden, and also made a couple of successful stretch passes. The defenceman is not one to forfeit a chance to spring the attack by dumping the puck out, instead holding on to possession, turning away, and making another move until the forechecker on his back gets tired or a supporting teammate presents himself as a good option.
He shows some creativity offensively and can shoot the puck, but doesn’t project as someone who will put up a lot of points at the next level. If he does, it will be through his transition capabilities.
The best play in the clip above is the last one: an offensive chance created by Johansson’s good read, cutting an opposing pass (inexplicably made to an opponent without a stick) to dangle around a couple of defenders and set up one of his teammates for a chance right at the doorstep.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #32
McKeen’s Hockey: #27
NHL Central Scouting: #37 (EU skaters)
Johansson has some size and mobility. He won’t outskate many pros — his rounded back and sometimes lack of knee-bend probably limits some of his power — but he can move freely and is strong enough that he should retain his puck-moving skills against them.
With development, he has a chance to become the main connection on the ice between defence and offence for an NHL team. He wants the puck on his stick and seizes opportunities to support his teammates on the ice. As he is rarely behind the play, it helps him maintain an aggressive gap and benefits his defensive game.
While NHL Central Scouting projects him as a third-rounder, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team in need of defensive depth jump at a chance to select the prospect early in the second round due to his qualities.