We continue our Washington Capitals prospect review and forecast series with Lucas Johansen, defenseman for the Hershey Bears. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page in the top menu or right here.)
Johansen, 25, from Port Moody, British Columbia, was a first round draft pick (#28 overall) by the Washington Capitals in the 2016 NHL entry draft. The Capitals signed Johansen to a three-year, entry-level contract on March 2, 2017 and re-signed him to a one-year extension on October 3, 2020. The Capitals announced July 8, 2022 that they had re-signed Johansen to a two-year extension. The first year of his contract was a two-way deal, making him waivers-exempt for the 2022-23 season. He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of the 2023-24 season.
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.
It was a disappointing 2018-2019 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.
The 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons were essentially lost seasons for Johansen, who played in just nine games in the 2019-20 season and just five games in the 2020-21 season. He missed the bulk of both season’s due to injury. The seasons were essentially a wash with regards to development.
The 2021-22 season was Johansen’s best season to date in the AHL. First and foremost, he remained relatively healthy for the entire season, playing in 62 regular season games and all three postseason games. Johansen played in a total of just 133 AHL games in the previous four seasons.
Johansen showed significant progress on both ends of the ice. Offensively, he posted a career year with eight goals and 20 assists during the regular season. He also added an assist in the postseason. Defensively, Johansen showed progress as well, with much fewer blown assignments and turnovers, and showed much better one-on-one play in the defensive zone. He was called up to the Capitals at the end of December and made his NHL debut on December 31 against the Red Wings in Detroit and recorded an assist in the game.
The 2022-23 season was a solid AHL season for Johansen, his fifth with the Bears (267 games), as he anchored the bottom pairing for the Bears for most of the season. There were the occasional healthy scratches along the way. Offensively, he recorded just one goal and six assists in 40 games played in the regular season. Johansen did record two goals and four assists in the postseason, provded critical blocked shots and was tied on the team for best plus/minus at +6 in 20 postseason games.
2022-2023 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Lucas Johansen during the 2022-2023 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
It has been a bit of a quiet start for Johansen. He skated in the first five games of the season before missing the final contest of the month on October 30 with an upper body injury. The Vancouver, British Columbia native has a single goal on the season offensively. It would be his only goal of the regular season.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) October 29, 2022
On the other end of the ice, it has been a little up and down for Johansen. He started strong on the opening weekend, playing a solid game. Johansen struggled defensively in Charlotte. The speed of the Checkers gave him trouble at times, forcing him into making a bad pass and into turnovers. Johansen sometimes is a little careless with the puck.
Monthly Score: 2.5
The injury bug hit Johansen in November. The Vancouver, British Columbia native saw action in just three games in the month.
He registered a secondary assist on first period tally versus Bridgeport on November 11. Johansen did not play being injured in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on November 18.
Monthly Score: 2.5
Johansen played just four games for the Bears in December, as he was recalled by the Capitals twice during the month. Johansen played in one game with the Capitals, against Winnipeg on December 11, and logged 13:32 of ice time. Other than that, Johansen was a scratch.
It appears that Johansen has assumed the “next defenseman up” role at this point of the season (ninth defenseman), which isn’t a bad place for him in his career. However, it remains to be seen whether he will see much game action with the Capitals in the future.
Monthly Score: 2.5
After enjoying a breakout year last season, Johansen has unfortunately again found it difficult to stay in the lineup. He skated in just three games in January, felled by a combination of illness and injury, and has played in just 16 games this season.
The Vancouver, British Columbia native was scoreless in those contests. Johansen has not recorded a point since earning an assist on November 11 and has two points on the season.
Monthly Score: 2.0
Johansen dished out a pair of assists in February. That is his highest point outpoint of the season, as he entered the month with just two points. However, the Vancouver, British Columbia native has experienced a frustrating season, playing in just 24 of Hershey’s 52 games. Johansen has been plagued by injury and illness. His breakout season from a year ago seems like a distant memory.
On a positive note, he played in eight games in February and that is the most he has played in a month this season. Johansen’s assist came on February 19 in charlotte and was on a diagonal stretch pass that sent Ethen Frank in for a goal. His other assist came in the first game of the month on February 1 when his shot was redirected by Connor McMichael for the Bears first goal at Lehigh Valley.
Monthly Score: 2.5
The good news for Johansen is he played in 10 games in March, the most he has played in a month this season. The Vancouver, British Columbia native also compiled a season-best three points in March. He now has seven points on the season. All three of his points came on assists. Johansen’s backhanded feed set up Joe Snively’s even-strength goal in the second period versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 1.
He also recorded the primary helper on Hershey’s opening goal in Providence on March 11 after Beck Malenstyn redirected his shot home. Defensively, it has been a mixed bag for the defenseman. He has some good games, but then struggles in others. Johansen still has not found the consistency he displayed last season.
Monthly Score: 2.5
Johansen’s postseason was possibly his best stretch of games of his professional career. He came up big with several key blocked shots at critical stages of games and was tied on the team for best plus/minus at +6. He also scored his first goal since October 28.
Mike Vecchione finds Lucas Johansen who snipes to give Bears a 2-1 lead early in third period. It’s LuJo’s first goal since October 28th. Bears blueliners have both tallies tonight. #HBH #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/bKih1X9XaP
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) May 18, 2023
Johansen came up big when he had to in the post season. He ended up,with two goals and four assists in 20 games, doubling his goal total from the regular season.
Monthly Score: 3.5
MONTHLY SCORE SUMMARY
Johansen’s regular season was underwhelming, but his postseason was very good. When pressed hard by media as to whether Johansen could make the Capitals roster next season, Capitals general manager Brian Maczlellan said he liked Johansen’s postseason, and that he has a chance. I’m not sure how MacLellan is supposed to respond, as I don’t see him shutting down any players chances in the middle of the summer.
For me, Vincent Iorio is already ahead of Johansen on the organization’s depth chart. Newly acquired Hardy Hamen Aktell could be ahead of Johansen as well. I just need to see more of his play, first hand. Regardless, I have Johansen currently 9th on the Capitals general defensive depth chart, behind Alex Alexeyev (7th) and Vincent Iorio (8th). That could change in training camp. The trade for Joel Edmundson is also a direct reflection of Johansen’s current standing on the team.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching each and every one of Johansen’s games in the AHL (267), and still feel he is best suited developing his craft on the Bears blueline for the 2023-24 season. He could get games with the Capitals, but he will have to clear waivers this season in order to return to the Bears. That may weigh very heavily on how he is deployed.
By Jon Sorensen
2022-2023 Prospect Reviews And Forecasts