Nashville Predators: Ryan Johansen solid leader for team’s top line

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

There is no doubting the elite level of the Nashville Predators’ top line. But did Ryan Johansen impede their performance?

The season is long since over for the Nashville Predators. The lack of hockey in this city has left a gaping hole in the hearts and spirit of fans. Watching a former coach and player battle in the Stanley Cup Final provides a bit of solace for some, anger for others.

Alas, we are left to sit back and think about what was and not is possible. Or just to argue about why an expansion team should not be in the Cup final. I choose to go with the former, so let’s discuss something regarding the Predators. As a former teacher, grading based on the gestalt of the body of work is an important task. Seeing what happened over the entire year serves us better than adding up the sections and trends. For Ryan Johansen, that is a good thing.

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As the center for one of the premier lines in the NHL, much is expected of Johansen. Being on the front line, fans often expect him to score 20 or more goals. Before coming to the Predators, Johansen achieved seasons with 33 and 26 goals, consecutively. Since then, 15 is his high mark and that came this season. But, scoring goals is not what Johansen needs to do.

Know your role

During the 2017-18 season, Ryan Johansen attempted fewer shots of his career outside of his first two years. However, in 129 shots he gained 15 goals, give Johansen an 11.6 shooting percentage. That is .1 behind linemate Viktor Arvidsson, and is fifth on the team of players with over 100 shots. However, scoring goals is not what Peter Laviolette needs from his top-line center.

I know it has been a month since we witnessed the Predators play hockey, but Johansen is on a line with Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. He is flanked by two stellar goal-scoring forwards. Johansen’s role is to set his linemates up to score. He did just that. In 5v5 play, Johansen had 20 assists, split evenly between primary and secondary assists. Overall, he was second on the Predators in assists and fourth in points. Johansen did his job.

But, the issue for Johansen was the middle of the season. Twenty-six of his 54 points came after January. Another 17 were obtained in October and November. Of course, we can point to his time missed due to a concussion or Forsberg missing games for injury or suspension. However, more head-scratching is that 10 of his 15 goals were scored during the final stretch. What could have been if Johansen had three stretches of 10 goals and 16 assists?

Digging deeper

When you look at all the advanced stats, it is hard to say Johansen is the best center on the team. While earning 1.69 points per 60 minutes, Johansen is seventh on the team. Kyle Turris is just below at 1.66. However, his 1.13 primary points per 60 is ninth, just behind Mike Fisher and Calle Jarnkrok. Johansen is also ninth on the team in CorsiFor (52.74), and he was on the ice for 38 goals against which is most among centers.

Furthermore, Johansen’s 26 penalties was second highest on the team. Being deployed in the offensive zone only 54.2% of the time means Johansen is seeing significant minutes on the defensive side of the ice.

Honestly, for your top center, you want to see better numbers. In terms of all forwards, Johansen was 80th overall in points per 60 for those with more than 1000 minutes on the ice. That is not top line production.

When push came to shove, Johansen showed up. He finished second on the in scoring during the playoffs with 14 points. He was one of four players with five or more goals in the tournament.

Next: Arvidsson was the team's engine

All in all, it was not a bad season for Ryan Johansen. The 54 points was below career averages, but not by much. As a top-line center, you want to see more points, especially during 5v5 play. Still, given who is plays with – and against – the season was successful.

I’d give him a B+.