Nashville Predators: Looking at the season ahead for Ryan Johansen

(Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

There’s no mistake how elite the top line of the Nashville Predators can be, and Ryan Johansen is the orchestrator that drives the train.

For yet another year, the Nashville Predators are coming up on the regular season with high expectations to be one of the top Stanley Cup contenders. We got their top line to thank for that, with Ryan Johansen being a major part of that at center. He’s become a mastermind at distributing the puck and setting up teammates.

As the Predators remain a top contender, it’s imperative that their top line stays elite. There are question marks and things to be sorted out behind them, but we can be pretty certain that Johansen and the top line will continue to be very productive.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when Johansen came from the Blue Jackets to join the Nashville Predators and became a key piece in a Stanley Cup run shortly after that. He’s been the consistent and steady performer both on and off the ice. He’s never shied away from the spotlight, and extremely reliable to suit up every game. In all but five regular-season games over the last three seasons, Johansen has suited up for the Predators. Pretty remarkable. What can we expect from him going into his fourth full season with the Predators?

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Where is Johansen’s stock heading?

Johansen is coming off of one of his best seasons in the NHL, putting up career-highs in assists (50) and points (64). Those 50 assists put him in the top ten of the franchise’s all-time assist leaders, and he has a good chance at getting into the top-five if he continues on this pace.

And there’s your key question. Can he continue this pace of being a dynamic distributor who is setting the table for scoring chances with fellow linemates Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg?

We all love as hockey fans seeing dynamic goal scorers like Arvidsson and Forsberg. They receive a lot of the credit and applause for scoring all of the highlight-reel goals. However, players like Johansen are the catalysts behind these great goal scorers. There’s no reason for me to believe that Johansen isn’t in store for another great season piling up the assists.

Assuming Forsberg, Arvidsson, and Johansen all stay healthy, I see this trio setting several new career highs this season. I’ll give Johansen a 50 percent probability that he surpasses 64 points as thanks to putting up more than 14 goals while continuing his pace of around 45-50 assists. I just really like the trajectory of his career at the moment. It certainly helps that he plays alongside Arvidsson and Forsberg to boost his numbers.

Johansen has room for improvement

No one is saying Johansen is among the elite centers in the NHL, but he does seem to get overlooked on a national level. Here in Nashville, we can appreciate what Johansen does by setting up scoring chances and remaining a consistent contributor. What’s missing from his game is quite simple, and it’s delivering on his own scoring attempts. He seems to miss on a lot of juicy scoring chances, and it’s probably why he doesn’t show up on a lot of top center lists around the league.

Former NHL star and NBC Sports hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick doesn’t have Johansen in his top-20 centers:

For what it’s worth, Matt Duchene also doesn’t show up on that list. A bit of a head-scratcher that Duchene isn’t on there, but Johansen I can understand. As solid as he’s been for the Predators over the last three seasons, he really needs to start hammering home more goals. His shooting percentage of 10.3 last season sits behind a lot of his teammates, including Austin Watson, Colton Sissons, and Nick Bonino. This part of his game obviously needs to improve.

We know what we’re going to most likely continue to get from Johansen, and that’s a ton of assists and him being in the middle of a lot of scoring chances. That’s a great asset to have, but we need more from a top-line center.

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Can Johansen begin to start hammering home more goals, and maybe even make more of an impact on a slumping power play? He had just one power-play goal last season. That’s the key question going into 2019-20 for Johansen. I think he gets there and gets close to another career-high in points, mainly because the power play should be improved and his assist numbers will stay steady.