Now that Johansson is Signed, Where Will he Play?


Marcus Johansson, affectionately called “MoJo” has signed a one-year contract with the Capitals as a Restricted Free Agent.  He is a versatile player, able to play on just about every line, in every forward position, and even sees major time on both special teams units.  The signing of Justin Williams and the acquisition of TJ Oshie make room on the top two lines scarce.  Let’s take a look where MoJo might end up.

1st Line – RW
Right now many think the favorites to play to the right of Backstrom and Ovechkin are Oshie or Williams.  However, Johansson has a pretty good shot at the top line.  He has experience playing with the dynamic duo, and those two have chemistry him on the RW.  Williams may end up on the 3rd line giving the team scoring balance.  Putting Williams on the 3rd line also has the advantage of resting his veteran body for the playoffs where he is known for timely scoring.  While, Trotz does juggle lines, if Williams or Tom Wilson ends up on the 1st line, its bad news for MoJo….

2nd Line – Highly Doubtful
It is highly unlikely that MoJo will end up on the 2nd line.  Kuznetsov has locked down the 2C and they love the tandem of him and Burakovsky on his left.  They are quickly becoming the second dynamic duo of the team.  TJ Oshie on the right is the perfect complement for Kuzy and Bura.  Oshie is the man who can dig the puck out of the corners and feed it to Bura for a shot, or to Kuzy to go and dangle and set up the offense.  He is also a right-handed shot.  Williams will not end up on the second line because his speed does not match the other two.  Wilson has an outside chance of ending up on the right.  For Marcus to end up on the second line RW, Oshie would have to be on the 1st line and Williams on the 3rd.  That, and Wilson would have to stay on the 4th line.  I don’t see MoJo on the LW unless Burakovsky falls off, and I don’t see that happening.

3rd Line or 4th Line – LW
Traditionally in the NHL, the 3rd line has been the checking line and the 4th has been the energy line.  These lines were not expected to add scoring but rather to stop the opponents’ scorers and to energize the team by hitting, respectively.  The 3rd line usually had the best defensive players and the 4th the most willing to give up their bodies and fight. The 4th line were not expected to be skilled.

However, the NHL has shown a trend towards having all four lines go out and play the same way.  While the 3rd or 4th lines might not be as powerful offensively as the top two, they are not expected to just role play anymore.  These lines are seeing more ice time, especially in the playoffs.

marcus-johansson-washington-capitals-23792577In the lineup, Capitals are strong down the middle.  Jay Beagle has cemented himself as a starting center on either the 3rd or 4th line.  He is the Caps best faceoff man and has begun to show an ability to both pass and score.  Brooks Laich also plays center and is better at faceoffs than MoJo is.  He has had 2 bad, injury filled years, but might bounce back this year.

The right side of Caps 3rd and 4th lines are also pretty well filled.  Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, and Williams all might end up on the right side of the bottom two lines.

That leaves the left side of the bottom two lines.  Jason Chimera will take up one of the spots, leaving the other for MoJo.  However, with Chimera’s age, MoJo will see more ice time than him.

The Value of MoJo – Why it’s better to pay him $3.75m instead of bringing Eric Fehr back.

There are has been groaning about why bring back Johansson at such a price.  The Caps have lost fan favorites Fehr, Joel Ward, and Mike Green to free agency.  There is plenty of reasons to want to keep him.

The first of these reasons is versatility.  MoJo is able to play every forward position.  He can take faceoffs.  He also plays major minutes on both the Power Play and the Penalty Kill.  This versatility means that MoJo can step into any position if there is an injury.  This means a high level of flexibility for the lineups and coaches appreciate that.

Second is his scoring and overall skill level.  MoJo scored 20 goals last season, and that is nothing to overlook.  He also added 27 assists. He had the same scoring as Ryan Kesler, but with a +6 rating versus Kesler’s -5.  While he doesn’t have the size or faceoff ability of Fehr, he is a much better passer and plays defense well.

Third, MoJo doesn’t take penalties.  MoJo has never had more than ten penalty minutes in any NHL season, and even has two with just four minutes. (One was a strike shortened season)  It’s an extremely low total.

Finally, MoJo is 24, and Fehr is 29.  People forget that MoJo is still young and developing.  Fehr may begin to break down in the next few years.

While Fehr was a favorite for his grit and personality and scoring in the Winter Classic, Johansson is a more valuable player to the Caps.  MoJo will see decent ice time, and even more when there are injuries and special teams play.  He might not have a big personality, but he contributes silently, and he contributes a lot.

By Lincoln Cajúlis

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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