Reluctant Johansen ‘nervous’ for All-Star spotlight

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Lights, camera, stage fright?

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen admits to having a case of nerves.

It’s not because of the spotlight from his first NHL All-Star Game, or his friends and family who have come to Columbus to be there for Johansen’s big weekend. It’s his inclusion in the Honda NHL Breakaway Challenge, which will take place Saturday during the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition, that have him a little nervous.

Johansen knows "everyone" — home fans inside Nationwide Arena, fans watching across the U.S. and Canada, fellow all-stars — will be watching the challenge, which features six shooters taking three shots each and judged for style, creativity and flair, and he knows what’s usually a home-ice advantage will bring home ice pressure.

He’s worried because he has no idea what kind of trick shot he’ll try to pull off.

"It’s actually really hard," Johansen said Friday. "You’re trying moves you’ve never really tried before. To execute them is pretty tough. So when you see guys doing these moves and they pull them off, it’s impressive."

It’s been quite a year for the 22-year old Johansen, who missed all of training camp before signing a three-year, $12 million contract just before the start of the season. He had 63 points last season, helping the Blue Jackets to the playoffs and in the franchises’s first playoff win, and he leads the Jackets again this season with 43 points.

Friday night, Johansen was the No. overall 1 pick in the NHL All-Star Player Draft by Team Foligno and his Blue Jackets teammate, Nick Foligno. It was a bit of an inside job, sure, but it’s also a testament to Johansen’s growing popularity.

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His spot in the Breakaway Challenge came via fan vote on Twitter — which is where each participant’s shots can be voted upon Saturday night as well — a testament to his popularity in the league. 

Many believe this All-Star Game is the first of many for Johansen, but he’s just trying to enjoy this one.

"It really is a dream come true," Johansen said.

As for the trick shots he’ll attempt Saturday night, Johansen is open to ideas.

"We had a week-long road trip so I never really had any time to try some goofy moves or anything," he said. "I’ll have to think of some here in the next day and hopefully I can get some ideas from some friends or something.

"I don’t feel any pressure for the game (Sunday) itself. This whole experience is awesome. I just really haven’t had time to work on anything for the skills competition, and obviously you want to put on a show."

Johansen does have experience in the Breakaway Challenge; he was selected as one of the NHL’s Young Stars at All-Star Weekend in Ottawa in 2012.

This time around he’s playing host — "I’m staying at the (players) hotel and my family and friends are packed in my house," he said — and anxious to skate Sunday on familiar territory along side the NHL’s best.

"It’s special," Johansen said. "You can feel it in the city. People are excited about the All-Star Game. It seems everybody is enjoying it."