The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer.
The Portland Winterhawks seem to have struck gold this year, with two players in the ISS Top 10: Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen. Johansen centers Niederreiter, and stands at a tall 6’3 188 lbs. At just 17 years old Johansen has plenty of time to fill out that tall frame. In his rookie year with Portland, playing on the same line as Niederreiter, Johansen has put up a line of 25-44-69 and a +17, good for second amongst WHL rookies.
What most are impressed with about Johansen is his consistency and leadership. At a young age, he has taken charge of the Hawks team through the WHL playoffs. In 13 playoff games, Johansen led the young Hawks in scoring with a line of 6-12-18 before the Hawks were eliminated. He has fantastic vision on the ice, and attempts to model his game after Joe Thornton. His vision on the ice certainly helps his cause, and as he develops, he could certainly turn into a big center with great playmaking abilities, much like Jumbo Joe. Although he is mostly raw talent, as he fills out his frame he could turn that raw talent into a force to be reckoned with as he develops.
Johansen has an excellent hockey IQ which allows him to succeed at a two-way game while playing significant time on both the powerplay and the penalty kill for Portland. For a big kid, he protects the puck very well, which will help him pan out to a potential #1 center down the road. In terms of big centers, he has it all: size, skill, vision, determination, and leadership. In addition to his two-way game, Johansen excels at faceoffs, which makes his value that much higher.
Johansen is a player who’s stock rose considerably during his rookie season with Portland. Articles as recent as December 2009 had him listed as a player that won’t last past the second round. It is now May 2010, and if he lasts past the top ten, people will be surprised. In just one year, Johansen has vaulted himself into one of the top playmakers and all around centers in the WHL. However, the main concern with Johansen is that he is going to be a “project” in the sense that he is not NHL ready, and being so young, he can’t play in the AHL for another three years (must be 21, unless born overseas). So unless he shows he can play at the NHL level early, he may wind up in the WHL for a few more years. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but teams looking for immediate help may not want to look at the young center. Johansen may fall to the Rangers at #10, and if the Rangers are following the “best available” mentality, Johansen could wind up being a steal for them at #10 if he continues to develop at such a fast pace.
Image Credit: Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian