We continue our prospect review and forecast series with a review and forecast for defenseman Lucas Johansen. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page in the top menu or right here.)
Johansen, 21, from Port Moody, British Columbia, was a first round draft pick (#28 overall) by the Washington Capitals in the 2016 NHL entry draft. Johansen, a left hander, has one year remaining on his three-year entry-level contract. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020. He is waivers-exempt.
Johansen had pretty good offensive numbers for his second year with the Kelowna Rockets. At just 18 years of age, Johansen notched 10 goals and 39 assists for 49 points in 69 games during the 2015-2016 season.
Johansen tallied six goals, 35 assists for 41 points in 68 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL in 2016-17. That was good enough for second among Rockets defensemen in points, goals, and assists.
Johansen moved to the Hershey Bears for the 2017-2018 season. After a slow start offensively, Johansen began to show signs of his scoring abilities during the latter half of the season. Defensively, it’s difficult to capture Johansen’s overall progress last season, considering the blueline issues with the Bears.
2018-2019 SEASON SUMMARY
It was a disappointing season for “LuJo”. A significant injury, compounded by less than average play made the 2018-2019 season a forgettable one for him. His puck handling and passing struggled quite a bit this season, particularly passing in his own zone, and puck management at the blueline, and entering the opponents zone.
Offensively, Johansen tallied just three goals and 11 assists in 45 games played in the regular season. He registered just 50 shots in those 45 games. Johansen was 20th on the Bears in points per game with a .31 points per game average. He was 14th on the Bears in PIMs with 22 for the regular season. Johansen registered two assists in nine postseason games.
Defensively, Johansen, who played on the bottom pair for a majority of the season, was a -14, second worst on the Bears team (Colby Williams was a -15). Johansen is slowly figuring out his AHL game on the defensive side, but there are still too many miscues and blown assignments.
2018-2019 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Lucas Johansen during the 2018-2019 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Johansen has settled in after a rough start to the season. He was a minus-5 in Hershey’s three-game weekend stretch at Grand Rapids, Milwaukee and Rockford. Recently, he has been paired with Tyler Lewington and the chemistry the pair had last season returned quickly. There is something about Lewington that brings out the best in Johansen. The native of British Columbia has improved his decision-making process since re-joining Lewington, as has his overall defensive play. Offensively, Johansen has three points in his last five games. He appears to be more confident offensively than he was in the last few months of last season. If Johansen can keep his offensive production going and still play good defense, he gives the Bears a high-end, all-around defenseman.
Johansen continues to suffer through a bit of a sophomore slump. His defensive game has left him. He played his best defensive hockey down the stretch last season, but has failed to build on that progress. Johansen is a team worst minus-13. His decision-making has been poor. He has tried to force passes out of the zone. He has got caught running around in his own zone and has been out of position as a result. His even-strength play has not been good. He does have nine points, which puts him on pace to top his 27 points from last season. However, only two of those points are at even-strength, more proof that he has not been good enough 5-on-5. Johansen is a gifted player with a lot of talent. He needs to be smarter and get back to playing the way he was at the end of last season.
December was a lost month for Johansen. He missed the entire month due to an injury he suffered against Lehigh Valley on November 23.
January was another lost month for Johansen. He missed the entire month with an injury and has not suited up for a game since November 23. Johansen finally returned to practice on Friday, January 25. He is expected to be back after the All-Star break.
Johansen finally returned to action on February 6 after being out with an injury since late November. The second-year defenseman has steadied his play. At the time of his injury, Johansen was a minus-13 and struggling defensively. Since his return, he is a plus-4 in 10 games and has not been a minus player in any of those games. He has been seeing third defensive-pairing minutes and that has taken the pressure off Johansen. It has allowed him to find himself defensively. Offensively, he only has one assist. However, the Bears need steady defensive play from him more at this point than they do his offense. The production of blueliners Aaron Ness and Ryan Sproul make Johansen’s offensive contributions less important.
Johansen went through the month of February without being a minus player in the 10 games in which he played after returning from injury and was a plus-4 on the month. March was completely different for the second-year blueliner. The sophomore former first-round pick was a minus-5 on the month and struggled in his own end. He turned the puck over too many times trying to force passes into traffic. Offensively, Johansen netted a goal at Providence on March 8 for his only point of the month. His play needs to improve for him to see an increase in playing time.
Johansen will need to make significant improvements to his overall game this coming season. He will be in the last year of his entry-level contract, with defensive prospects Alexander Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary entering the competition for a starting spot on the Bears blueline. It’s still too early to label Johansen a bust, considering his injuries and inconsistencies, but the hour is getting late. At 21, there is still some time to find his game, but with the increasing density of defensive prospects building, he needs to do it this coming season.
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By Jon Sorensen