Johansen reflects on the All-Star rookie experience, offers advice for this year’s group
A week from now, Blue Jacket center Ryan Johansen will be in the midst of the 2015 NHL All-Star weekend. He joins teammates Nick Foligno and Sergei Bobrovsky on the roster and is the only one of the three to have previously been part of an All-Star experience.
At the last NHL All-Star game held in Ottawa in 2012, the 6-foot-3 Vancouver native was one of 12 rookies named to the roster.
"It was pretty cool," Johansen said. "I remember being there and just coming into the league and still looking up to most guys in that game as players I knew as a kid. To be on the same ice as all of them and realizing that could be me one day was an awesome experience."
Johansen had a strong rookie campaign in the 2011-12 season that led to his All-Star selection. He went 9-12-21 in 67 games, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t nervous heading into a weekend with the league’s best players.
"It was both intimidating and exciting," Johansen said. "You always want to make sure you have a good first impression on a bunch of the players around the league but we’re all pretty similar people – we’ve all done the same thing our whole lives. Everyone’s for the most part a great guy which makes this event so much fun."
As a rookie, Johansen was only eligible to participate in the skills competition. He was slotted in to the breakaway competition — something that he laughingly said he didn’t have much say in – and went 0-3 against goaltender Brian Elliott of the St. Louis Blues.
"It was a little nerve wracking," Johansen said. "We never practice these things so it’s definitely different but you just have to go out there and have fun, whatever happens happens."
Now in his fourth year in the NHL, Johansen is preparing to participate in the full slate of activities for All-Star weekend. While he says his rookie experience wasn’t a direct motivator to be named an All-Star again, he’s excited to now be able to play in both the All-Star skills competition and game.
"It would’ve been cool if I got the opportunity to play in the game (as a rookie), but now I do," Johansen said. "Looking back it was a lot of fun to watch those guys. I’m really excited now that I have the opportunity."
Six rookies will come to Columbus for the 2015 All-Star game: Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, Aaron Ekblad from Florida, Montreal’s Jiri Sekac (who replaces the injured Tanner Pearson from Los Angeles), Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, Mike Hoffman from Ottawa and Jonathan Drouin from Tampa Bay.
Having been in those players’ shoes, Johansen can now look back and offer advice to the league’s newest stars who are heading in to their first All-Star experience. Johansen’s counsel for the young players is to not think about performance too much and to realize that the best part of the weekend is meeting fellow players and spending time together.
"Just enjoy the experience," Johansen said. "It’s a quick weekend. Having all these players all in one room and on the ice together and being around the city a bit and doing the draft and whatnot — just have fun with it."
The NHL All-Star Weekend is January 24-25 in Columbus. Participating players will assigned to teams Friday, Jan 23 during the All-Star Draft at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. All players will participate in the skills competition Saturday, Jan 24 and veteran players will play in the All-Star game Sunday, Jan 25. The skills competition and game will be held at Nationwide Arena.