Brian MacLellan Believes Lucas Johansen Has A Legitimate Shot At Making Capitals Roster

Washington Capitals prospect
Lucas Johansen has had an up-and-down career, one that he hopes to rectify as he heads into his seventh season as a professional. The 2016 first-round pick has been plagued by significant injuries that have hindered his development greatly.

However, when the Port Moody, British Columbia native has been healthy, he has also been prone to inconsistency. At times he has struggled in his own zone, with puck control and difficulty carrying the biscuit into the offensive zone being among the more notable of his weaknesses. It was, at one stage, difficult to pinpoint what the now-25-year-old’s career would look like.

Johansen made his professional debut during the 2017-18 season with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. The 6’2″ rearguard had a decent offensive showing in his rookie year with 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) in 74 games played.

The following year was when the dreaded injury bug hit; “LuJo” played 45 games in the 2018-19 season, struggling when healthy: he racked up 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) and a minus-14 rating. 

Things started to go from bad to worse for Johansen as he fought different ailments to return to the lineup, which resulted in the younger brother of established NHLer Ryan Johansen playing just 14 games over the course of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns.

After finally returning to the Bears’ lineup, Johansen rebounded by posting career-highs across the board with 28 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 62 games played; during this time he made his NHL debut, recording one point in the single game he played with the Caps. 

During the Capitals’ 2023 Development Camp, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Brian MacLellan put his confidence behind the lefthanded defenseman.

“He brings an element that the other guys don’t. I think you need more than six defensemen to go into the year. You need eight or nine I would count on using. I like what Lucas has done in Hershey,” MacLellan said. 

Although Johansen took a step back offensively with Hershey last season, tallying seven points (one goal, six assists) in 40 games, he managed to stay healthy and was doing lots of the “little things”, right, showing positional awareness in his own end and having fewer turnovers; he also played an additional two games in D.C.

Johansen’s productivity truly came when it mattered most for the Chocolate and White, showing up in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, particularly in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals.

Though he did not tally on the scoresheet, Johansen had two game-saving shot blocks which eventually led to Hershey tying the series at two apiece. He ended up with six points (two goals, four assists) in 20 playoff games. His plus-6 rating was tied for the team lead during the championship run. 

As NoVa Caps noted in our prospect tier piece, Johansen’s time to be an NHLer might be coming to an end making the 2023-24 season a big year for the 2016 first-rounder, as he will be playing the final season of his two-year contract extension signed in 2022. With the Caps looking to inject youth into their lineup this season, Johansen’s opportunity to prove himself may be bigger than ever before.

By Jacob Cheris

Read More on Lucas Johansen:
Lucas Johansen Is (Finally) Finding His Game
Lucas Johansen: 2023 Annual Review And Forecast
Lucas Johansen: 2022 Annual Review And Forecast

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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13 Responses to Brian MacLellan Believes Lucas Johansen Has A Legitimate Shot At Making Capitals Roster

  1. hockeydruid says:

    Then why waste the money and roster spot on Edmundson? There are several younger players who could and should be on the roster rather than an older vet!! Wonder if this year will be just like last season where we lost 2 players who could not pass through waivers?

    • Anonymous says:

      LuJo is not an NHL player. Mac was pressured by one of the beat reporters to Dre respond re:LuJo. What’s he gonna say? “He has no shot”?

    • Anonymous says:

      Sandin, Fehervary, Alexeev, and Edmundson will not play 82 games each. Alexeev has played on the right side in both DC and Hershey, and Edmundson has as well at various times throughout his career. Johansen is currently the #1 LD in Hershey. I’m failing to see the problem here.

  2. horn73 says:

    Love it and dead on Anonymous. Druid continues to want the DC hockey franchise to be an AHL team…he must have led the participation trophy era

    • Anonymous says:

      Lol. Well said.

    • hockeydruid says:

      The only way you will know what type of player you have in Hershey is to play them. IF they work out great however if they don’t no problem as you can move on and at least you see what type of player you drafted. And yes many players will never get past the ANL level but that is what it is there for. Frankly for the at least next 5 years you will have plenty of time to check out the Hershey players as that is how long it will take this team to rebuild and become a legitimate Cup contender. Honestly making the playoffs only to go out in the first round does nothing but help line Teds pocket and does nothing for getting better players for this team. If you look long term you want to see a flow of younger players coming up and playing to see how good they are and if they have a future with this team. IMHO I would rather have Hershey players playing their hearts out than keep going to the dumpster to find players! And I would rather have it be a good AHL team than a bunch of dumpster dive players and one that is just good enough to not draft better players! And horn just to let you know I played sports when we were men not protected weenies like you and you buddy anom. And to be honest when it comes to the two of you I refuse to fight the mentally unarmed and challenged!

  3. dwgie26 says:

    GMBM is right in that you need 8-10 serviceable de-men. Of course he has a shot. He is in the top 8-10. But he isn’t going to beat out Alexyev for 7. And Caps will take 14 forwards if they can afford it. Which right now they can’t. And nobody is likely to pick him up. If they do it is like AJF. Nothing burger.

  4. dwgie26 says:

    The old site is back. Easy to post! Yeah!

  5. horn73 says:

    As usual, dwgie is dead on as is anonymous…quote from an agent about owners, contracts, and getting players to want to play for an org….rewarding your stars is important..not your ahl tweeners…they have to earn spots…

    • “Treat the players like humans. I think owners don’t take into consideration how much the locker room looks around and sees how ownership treats players. Treats their stars and their bottom players. … No matter what you did internally with Washington’s franchise, until you cut off the head of the snake, it was all going to trickle down and not be a good place to work. The opposite is true. If you have ownership that’s treating people right and doing right by you, then it’s going to trickle down as well.”

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