After being drafted fourth overall in the 2010 draft, Ryan Johansen is entering the final year of his Entry Level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. There was some hype surrounding him when he was drafted that he would turn into a power forward and be a potential No. 1 center. Although the fans have affectionately called him “RyJo” or “The Johan”, he hasn’t realized his full potential to this point.
This being a “contract year” for the young man (he just turned twenty-one) he hopes to become a more effective player on the ice. He has seen, and been a part of, the culture shift that is happening in Columbus over the last year.
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“There have been a lot of positive changes”, he said. “With those changes came some success at the end of last year. All the hard work that has been put in is starting to pay off. It’s really nice to see. The mindset is that everyone is going to put in 120 percent every time they come to the rink. We need to do whatever it takes to win.”
He credited the change in team mindset to team president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Keklalainen.
“That really brought in that positive vibe,” Johansen said. “We just started to click and everything was going along the right path. Now, we can’t take a step back. We have to get off to a great start this season. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
With the exciting run that the Blue Jackets went on to finish last season, how can Johansen and his teammates ensure that they don’t take a step back going into the 2013-14 season?
“It starts with preparation”, he said. “We’ve had guys here (Columbus) all summer training with our strength and conditioning coach (Kevin Collins). It’s going back to something as simple as just hard work and doing whatever you can to win hockey games.”
The tone of the organization was set in place with the hiring of Davidson and reinforced when Jarmo Kekalainen took the reins as GM. What are his thoughts on this change in the club that drafted him?
“The message was really clear when they (Davidson and Kekalainen) got here”, said Johansen. “The message was that we are going to be a winning franchise and that we’re not going to accept losing. It woke us up. They said we’re tired of this losing stuff. We’re going to start winning and not look back. This is going to be a winning team”
“I really noticed a big change from when I first got here”, he said. “I’ve had a terrific time playing here for the last three years. But, those last 25 or 30 games last year… words don’t explain how much fun that was. Especially when your team is playing that well and you’re all ‘clicking.’ The chemistry is there. That started with them up there. They changed the attitude of the team and that’s been awesome.”
The 2013-14 NHL season will see Columbus join the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference. How does this impact the players, such as himself?
“It’s definitely going to be different”, he said. “I’ve only played those teams maybe once before. It’s exciting. I’m from out west, so I like going out there and playing in my home town of Vancouver.
“But it does take a toll on you, the travelling to Los Angeles and Phoenix. Then there’s the Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton trip. Now it’s nice when that Pittsburgh trip is a 25 minute flight. When cities are that much closer, it’s definitely a lot easier on the body. You can manage your sleep much better. I think it’s going to make a huge difference. It’s a positive thing. We’re really looking forward to the challenge of playing those big Original Six teams. It’s exciting.”
Since being drafted, Johansen has had some very good role models to look up to and try to emulate within the Blue Jackets organization. What players does he look up to as mentors or seek out for advice?
“That’s the cool thing about our team”, Johansen said. “There are a handful of guys that you look up to everyday. It’s not just one guy. I mean, we don’t even have a captain right now.”
“There are six or seven guys in there that are always professional, everyday. They come in every day with their working hat on. I’ve definitely learned a lot from watching those guys. They’ve been around the league a long time. When they say something, I definitely listen. I soak it all in, the advice and whatever they have to say. It’s cool that our team has that many guys that have that experience and can have that impact in the dressing room or on the ice.”
He knows that there is hard work that lies ahead, but acknowledges that he’s enjoying his summer right now.
During the offseason, Johansen is one of the better golfers in the Blue Jackets organization. He enjoys the game, but is also very competitive when on the links. But really, how good is he when he goes golfing? “I actually just had a couple of my best rounds of the summer”, he said. “I just got (my handicap) down to a seven. It was an 8.2 a few weeks ago.”