Photo: Tori Hartman
The first professional season for Hershey Bears rookie defenseman Lucas Johansen didn’t start anywhere near how he wanted it to. In his first American Hockey League (AHL) game, he was welcomed to the pro game with a -4 in Hershey’s 7-2 loss at Lehigh Valley. Through four games, the rookie defenseman was a -8 and had only one assist offensively. However, things started to get better for Johansen in Hershey’s 4-2 road win over Grand Rapids on October 22 and his level has elevated since then.
In the game against Grand Rapids, Johansen chipped in with the secondary assist on Chandler Stephenson’s power play goal. That goal would prove to be the game-winner in the Bears inaugural win of the season. Johansen’s helper was an important one.
Johansen, the younger brother of Nashville Predators’ center Ryan Johansen, contributed in Hershey’s next game as well. He recorded the primary assist on Riley Barber’s game-tying goal in the third period against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Bears would eventually lose 3-2 on Penguins power play goal, but Johansen finished as a plus player for the first time.
After failing to score in his next game versus Providence, Johansen’s offensive game has taken off. He netted his first professional goal on a power play goal in the second period of Hershey’s 4-3 over Hartford. Then, he put up his first career multi-point game against Harford and those points were big. He helped the Bears rally from a two-goal deficit with a goal and an assist in the third period and force overtime against Rochester. Hershey lost in the shootout, but gained a point which could prove important later in the season. More importantly, Johansen was a +3 in the game, the best of his young career.
The rookie failed to record a point against Toronto, but has bounced back with three assists in his last two games. His recent run of play, has vaulted Johansen up the AHL defensemen scoring list. His nine points place him eighth among AHL defensemen in scoring.
Johansen’s output is helping the Bears replace Christian Djoos’ offensive contributions from last season. Djoos finished third on the team in scoring with 58 points and second in assists with 45. With Djoos now in Washington, there was a large void on the back end offensively. Johansen has stepped into Djoos’ position and has begun to thrive in the role.
Hershey needs Johansen to continue to excel in Djoos’ role. On a team lacking a lot of offensive firepower, the Bears need contributions from everyone. If Johansen can fill Djoos’ skates, that will one more offensive weapon for Hershey and a team can never have enough weapons. If Johansen turns into a weapon from the blue-line, it will not be long until he joins his brother in the National Hockey League.
By Eric Lord