Blue Jackets notebook: Strong start for Johansen
Faceoffs an area where young center is thriving
Center Ryan Johansen has won the most faceoffs (42) and has the highest faceoff-winning percentage (.525) among Blue Jackets players.
With 1:10 remaining against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards sent out center Ryan Johansen to take a desperation faceoff. The Jackets, trailing 3-2, had their goaltender pulled for an extra skater.
The scene repeated itself again moments later. Richards took a timeout, then sent Johansen out for the faceoff with 28 seconds left. The Blue Jackets didn’t pull off a comeback, losing their fourth straight game, but the scenes were telling.
“It says he has earned the trust of the coaches,” Richards said. “It says he’s winning faceoffs. It says he’s deserving of that moment. It says we felt he was our best option.”
Johansen was barely allowed out of the basement last season. He played out of position (wing) on the fourth line almost all season and looked nothing like a No. 4 overall draft pick. That continued into this season with minor-league Springfield, where Johansen played during the lockout. Richards watched the Falcons play in December, and he was not impressed.
“I was thinking, ‘This guy isn’t ready,’ ” Richards said. “I didn’t think he was even necessarily worthy of a call-up for training camp.”
Johansen said earlier this month that he got “sick and tired” of hearing from coaches that he needed to play at a higher level. So he amped up his game.
Through five games this season, Johansen has been the team’s most consistent forward. He looks big, powerful and creative. He has won the most faceoffs (42) and has the highest faceoff-winning percentage (.525) on the club, including the two against Chicago’s Dave Bolland in the final 70 seconds.
Johansen centered a line Saturday with Matt Calvert and Vinny Prospal on his wings. He could be in for a bigger role tonight, when the Dallas Stars play at Nationwide Arena.
“It’s a big step he’s taken,” general manager Scott Howson said. “Now he has to make sure he continues to achieve the consistency he has had in the first five games. He has had (scoring) chances every game. He’s got a hard shot, a heavy shot. When you keep getting chances, eventually they’re going in.”
The Stars expect winger Jamie Benn to make his season debut tonight after reaching terms on a five-year, $26.5 million contract on Thursday. Benn, 23, missed the first six games of the season.
“It’s really big,” Stars general manager Joe Niewendyk told NHL.com. “We know how important he is to our hockey club.”
Benn had 26 goals and 37 assists in 71 games last season, and he played in his first All-Star Game.
Funny world, the NHL draft. In 2007, the Blue Jackets traded three fifth-round picks — Nos. 128, 129 and 149 — to Dallas for a fourth-round pick, No. 94 overall.
The Jackets used that pick to take winger Maksim Mayorov, who was rated the fourth-best skater outside North America. After four mediocre seasons in the minors, Mayorov is now playing in Russia.
The Stars used the No. 129 pick to take Benn, one of only three All-Stars in that draft.
The Blue Jackets did not skate yesterday. They are more than halfway through a season-opening stretch of nine games in 15 days and won’t go back-to-back days without a game until next Sunday and Monday. … Former Blue Jackets captain Ray Whitney (foot injury) is expected to play tonight for the Stars.