Marcus Johansson started off the year scoring just 8 points through 18 games. Many people were frustrated with his play on the ice because he was turning the puck over a lot and missing some open shots. His name even started being mentioned in trade discussions.
In particular, during the early season matchup with Dallas, Johansson was very careless with the puck in the waning minutes of the game, turning it over several times in the neutral zone in the 3-2 loss. Since this game on November 19th, MoJo has scored 20 points (9 G, 11A) in 24 games.
Johansson is on pace to finish with 53 points this season, which would set a new career high, surpassing his 47 points recorded last season. Marcus is also on pace to set new career highs in power play goals and +/-. He has been a key contributor to the first power play unit in his normal position below the goal line.
When Jay Beagle went down with injury, Barry Trotz moved Marcus down to center the third line with Jason Chimera and Tom Wilson, and so far, the move has paid dividends. In his first game playing center, MoJo won only 14.3% of his draws which drew some concerns, but in the past five games, he has won 60% or higher of his face-offs. Johansson has been productive at this center spot, posting 6 points in 6 games.
If Johansson continues to play well at center, Trotz will have a few decisions to make when Beagle returns from injury. Beagle could either be placed back into his original position as the third line center with Chimera and Wilson or Beags could play on the fourth line as a winger, assuming Mike Richards is productive at the center position. If MoJo develops great chemistry with this third line and Andre Burakovsky continues to produce on the second line, there is no reason to immediately place Beagle back on the third line. Trotz does a great job of getting the most out of his guys, so if the group goes through a slight rough patch, don’t be surprised if he mixes up some of the lines.
After this season, Johansson will be a restricted free agent. If he continues to play at a high level for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, look for the Caps to re-sign him to keep him in Washington.
By Gabe Mead