It was another steady and consistent season from Ryan Johansen as he anchored the top line for the Nashville Predators and nearly broke a franchise record.
There are a lot of areas you can point to for why the Nashville Predators fell well-short of expectations, but Ryan Johansen certainly isn’t one of them. He’s actually the straw that stirs the drink for Nashville’s top line, which carried the brunt of the work for the majority of the year.
Johansen set a career-high in assists with 50, showing how he made the offense tick. His contributions to making Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg look like superstars cannot be overstated. Maybe Arvidsson and Forsberg will become superstars on their own in due time, but Johansen fuels the engine for this club. Without his steady contributions on the top line, forget getting ousted in the first round. The Predators may have missed the playoffs. That’s how important Johansen is to this team.
Highlights of his season
Aside from his 50 assists, another area that really impresses me about Johansen’s season is his durability. He’s now only missed five regular season games over the last three seasons. That’s simply remarkable in such a physical sport. Not to mention Johansen doesn’t shy away from playing physical. It’s so critical that a player like Johansen stays healthy, especially this past season. Imagine if Johansen had missed any amount of time while Arvidsson or Forsberg were also out. This team probably would’ve caved in. Instead Johansen stayed healthy and kept the Predators afloat.
Johansen also set a career-high in average ice time at 19:33 per game. This guy put in work for his club, while other key players missed lengthy amounts of time. You can argue that Johansen is Nashville’s season MVP just due to how consistent he was and how he made everyone around him better through all of the injuries around him. That’s a debatable topic for another day.
Then I look at the more advanced stats and see that Johansen thrived in those areas as well, especially his Corsi percentage at even strength. He comes up just a shade under 55, which is a solid number among players who played close to a full season of games. He kept the Nashville’s top line productive, even through the injuries. He also had to do it without Arvidsson and Forsberg for large chunks of the season. His assist numbers could’ve been even bigger if he had a fully healthy roster around him.
It wasn’t all great
Johansen had his best season since coming to the Nashville Predators, but not everything was great. As was a common theme with the entire team, Johansen struggled on the power play. He failed to register a power play goal. Even though he’s not primarily considered a big scorer, not scoring a single goal on the power play is an issue for me. I will say that he made up somewhat for that by registering 16 assists on the power play. I would like to see Johansen become more aggressive on the power play in the future.
Another area where I have to be critical of Johansen’s season is his playoff performance. Aside from two assists, it was a forgettable postseason for him. Your top line center has to produce more than just two assists over six games in the playoffs. I’m not going to single out just Johansen, because nearly the entire team played poorly. However, I expect more out of Johansen as I do hold him to a higher standard as the anchor of the top line.
I’m giving Johansen an A- mainly for his spectacular season distributing the puck and creating scoring chances. He weathered a lot of storms around him and still managed to have one of the more productive seasons in franchise history. He came up just four assists short of tying the Nashville Predators single-season assist record set by Paul Kariya. He also tallied six game-winning goals, just three short of the franchise record.
To remain objective, I knocked off points for his lack of production in the playoffs and on the power play. Overall, a great season by Johansen that I believe commonly gets overshadowed by Arvidsson and Forsberg.