After seven seasons with the team, forward Marcus Johansson was traded to the New Jersey Devils just a few days ago to give the Capitals cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer to new contracts. While some fans were in favor of the move, others were not. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ writer Diane Doyle looks back on the Capitals career of Marcus Johansson.
There are some draft years that are more memorable than others, some because of a player that was highly anticipated, others due to other events. 2009 was one of those years memorable due to other events. 2009 was the summer my youngest child graduated from High School, so this was the summer in which the players being drafted were ones who, age-wise, could have been her classmates! So, as a fan of the Washington Capitals, I was looking forward to who the Capitals would draft that year, especially with their first pick.
At the time of that draft, they had been eliminated in Round 2 of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins just several weeks earlier. However, the future outlook for the team was still promising, as stars Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were still only 24 and 22 years of age, respectively, and they had many other good young players on the team at the time, including Mike Green and Alexander Semin. Due to their relatively high position in the standings, the Caps would pick at 24th overall in the first-round.
With that pick they chose Marcus Johansson who had played both wing positions and center. The expectation was that he would ultimately become the Caps’ second-line center. Fans also noticed the fact that he shared the same last name with Calle Johansson, a great defenseman who played with the Caps from 1988-2003, and they were hoping he could be the next great player on the team named Johansson. Johansson did not attend the Capitals’ Development Camp of 2009 due to obligations to his team in Sweden. He was Captain of Sweden’s World Junior Team that played from December 2009-January 2010 and won the Bronze Medal. However, he was unable to participate in the Bronze Medal game since he had received a game misconduct penalty in the previous game. That was the World Junior Championship in which Johansson’s future teammate, John Carlson, scored the overtime game winner to win gold for the USA against Canada. On May 27, 2010, Johansson signed his entry-level contract with the Caps at nearly the same time that fellow Swede Nicklas Backstrom had flown into D.C. to sign his own 10-year deal with the Caps. The two countrymen were able to get to know each other. It was revealed he would wear #90, which reflected the last two digits of his birth year.
2010 Development Camp and Making the Team
He did attend the 2010 Development Camp, which was also attended by Evgeny Kuznetsov, the team’s first-round pick in 2010. On the first day of camp, Bruce Boudreau, the Capitals’ head coach at the time, was impressed with him. They were hopeful he could make the opening night roster for the Caps. While he struggled in his initial Development Camp scrimmage, he did much better in the next game. Overall, he was one of the standout players in camp. When the Capitals’ Training Camp ended, Johansson made the team’s roster for opening night ahead of fellow forwards Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle, as he was perceived to have more defensive upside than Perreault did. He started off the season in the role of third-line center with the expectation that he would move up to the second-line at some point during the season. He had his 20th birthday (on October 6) after making the team, but prior to the start of the season, and was greeted by a post-game shaving cream pie from Alex Ovechkin who has customarily done that for birthdays and first goal milestones.
Second Career Game on October 9, 2010
One memorable game for Johansson was the second game of his career on October 9, 2010. It was the Capitals’ home opener in which they played the New Jersey Devils. They had lost their season opener on the road that year, so were motivated to perform well for their fans. In this game the Caps fell behind 2-1 after the first period, but they roared back in the final two periods with six unanswered goals, including a penalty shot goal by Ovechkin. With just under four minutes left in the game, Pierre LeTourneau-LeBlond slashed Johansson and then tried to instigate a fight with him. John Carlson raced after LeTourneau-LeBlond in defense of his younger teammate and was ejected from the game as well. As punishment, LeTourneau-LeBlond was fined, suspended, waived, and sent to the minors. He did not return to the NHL until the following season and, even then, was there only briefly.
In his debut season, Johansson ended up with 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points in 69 games played. He was generally the third-line center that year until Backstrom became sidelined with a broken thumb and he was given a more expanded role. He also participated in the Capitals’ Winter Classic game that took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on January 1, 2011.
Playoff Game April 20, 2011
This game was Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs in which the Caps were playing the New York Rangers. The Caps had won the first two games of that series at the Verizon Center, but once the series shifted to Madison Square Garden, the Rangers won the next one by a score of 3-2. This set the stage for Game 4. The Caps were not off to a good start, as they fell behind 3-0 about two-thirds of the way through the second period. However, the Caps woke up for the last period. First, Alexander Semin scored and Johansson scored less than a minute later. Johansson also scored the game-tying goal about eight minutes later. The game proceeded into overtime and former Capital Jason Chimera won it for the Caps during the second overtime period. This game gave the Capitals a commanding series lead of 3-1 instead of leaving them tied. If not for Johansson’s two goals, this series would have likely ended tied at two games apiece and probably a not so happy ending for the series.
During this season, Johansson fell ill and left a pre-season game early. The illness kept him away from the 2011 Caps Convention that was held near the end of the pre-season. Whether due to that lingering illness or not, he looked relatively flat near the end of the pre-season and ended up as a healthy scratch on opening night, being benched in favor of Mathieu Perreault, who was ironically, the center he had beaten out for a roster spot the previous year.
That year, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau was fired soon after Thanksgiving and was replaced with Dale Hunter. During that time frame, Johansson was utilized more as the right winger on the first-line, rather than as a center. That is borne out by the fact that he took very few faceoffs at the end of the season. There was a memorable television commercial for the playoffs in which Ovechkin introduced his linemates, which included both Backstrom and Johansson. For the 2011-2012 season, he scored 14 goals and added 32 assists for 46 points. A memorable off-ice moment was when he, Mathieu Perreault, and Cody Eakin skated with kids at the Smithsonian National Zoo. The Capitals Kids Club asked kids to submit drawings of their favorite animals “Rocking the Red”. Out of the entries, 50 kids were then randomly selected to skate with the three Capitals players. Another group of 50 kids was pre-selected by the zoo. This was chronicled by the District Sports Page Blog. There was also a report that Johansson drove the other two Caps to the Zoo and got lost on the way.
The Adam Oates Years
WhenDale Hunter chose not to return to the Caps after the 2011-2012 season, he was replaced with Adam Oates. The 2012-2013 season started off with a lockout, so the season did not begin until after the New Year and training camp took place in January. Oates decided to have Ovechkin switch from his usual left wing position to right wing. Johansson was to be the left winger instead. Both had a violent collision during a training camp scrimmage on January 15. Ovechkin left for the locker room briefly, but soon returned. Johansson finished the scrimmage like nothing was wrong, but once the season started, it was obvious that something was not right with him. After the first seven games, he had scored just one goal and had a minus-7 rating. Eventually, he had to confess to the training staff that he was dealing with a concussion. He ended up sitting out 12 games and went through the NHL’s mandated concussion protocol before he could return. Before sitting out, he tried to play through concussion symptoms and had started off on the top-line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, but slipped to the fourth-line and was a healthy scratch on at least two occasions. Once he returned from the concussion, he started playing like his “old self” again. For that injury-shortened season, he had six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in 34 games played.
The next year, he played in 80 games, scoring eight goals and adding 36 assists for 44 points. Reflecting the team’s poor defense, he was a minus-21. He also was part of the Swedish Olympic Team that earned the Silver Medal. Initially, he had not been selected but was added later as an injury replacement. The image of him and Nicklas Backstrom riding their bikes dressed in suits circulated around on the internet and was captioned as “Swedes on Bikes” and inspired t-shirts made in their honor. That season ended on a bad note. During the second to last game of the season, a home game against the Chicago Blackhawks, a Backstrom shot hit him in the arm, causing Johansson to drop his stick and immediately leave the ice. After the game, it was announced that Johansson would miss the last game of the season with an “upper body” injury, which was the one planned for the “Jerseys Off the Back” ceremony as part of the Fan Appreciation events. The next day, Caps fan learned the nature of the “upper-body” injury. He was spotted with his arm in a cast and wearing a sling.
Barry Trotz Years
Johansson’s goal-scoring improved greatly following the appointment of Barry Trotz as coach of the Capitals before the 2014-15 season. In his three seasons under Trotz, he scored 20 goals with 27 assists in 2014-2015, 17 goals with 29 assists in 2015-2016, and 24 goals with 34 assists in 2016-2017. His goal total was lower during 2015-2016 due to missing eight games due to injuries and an uncharacteristic two-game suspension.
He had a game-winning goal in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks on November 11, 2016.
That goal could have been a precursor for the playoffs as he had a game-winning overtime goal during Game 6 of Round 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 23, 2017, ensuring the Caps advancement to Round 2.
One of the more memorable off-ice moments involving Johansson was during the Annual Washington Capitals Fathers’ trip this past season during which fans were treated to post game dancing moves by Coach Barry Trotz and Johansson’s father, Lars, after a Caps victory.
Over the years, Johansson made many appearances at Caps Casino Nights and other Capitals-sponsored events which have been documented on Monumental Entertainment and various fan blogs. Johansson spent seven seasons with the Capitals, playing in 501 games and scoring 102 goals and adding 188 goals for 290 points. He came out of Sweden less-heralded than many of the other forward prospects that were about his age, including Marcus Kruger, Jacob Markstrom, Magnus Paajaarvi, and Matthias Tedenby. Jacob Josefson, another Swedish forward, was drafted ahead of him in Round 1. Johansson has exceeded the production of all those forwards. The best Swedes from his draft year were defensemen Victor Hedman and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
By Diane Doyle