Minnesota Wild Need a Big Season Out of Marcus Johansson

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 17: Marcus Johansson #90 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 17, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Sabres 5-3.(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 17: Marcus Johansson #90 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on December 17, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Sabres 5-3.(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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After trading fan and team favorite Eric Staal, the Wild will need a big season out of recently acquired Marcus Johansson.

Marcus Johansson is a 10-year NHL veteran on his 5th team in his career. Since Johansson left Washington he hasn’t really found a home. His first appearance for the Wild this season will mark his fourth team in the past three seasons.

Throughout his career, the 30-year old forward has played 648 games across 10 seasons with 129 goals, 235 assists, and 364 points. Johansson was at his best from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017 where he scored 20 goals twice and had over 45 points each of those 3 seasons with a career-high of 58 points.

The Swedish forward was drafted by the Capitals in 2009 with the 24th pick. Before the draft, he had been playing as a wing with Farjestad of the Swedish Hockey League. But in 2009-10, he moved to center which resulted in an elevated ice time role, finishing with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 42 games.

Despite his career high in goals with 24 and points with 58 Johansson was traded to New Jersey for the Panthers 2nd round pick in 2018. Johansson was plagued with injury when he was with the Devils his first year. After getting 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 48 games the following season, he was traded to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 25, 2019, for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 4th.

With Boston, Johansson played a pivotal role in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 22 games helping the Bruins advance to the Final, where they ended up losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven games.

The former first-round pick signed a 2-year deal with the Sabres and had himself a very disappointing season with the Sabres (9G, 30P) across 60 games, which resulted in him being traded to the Wild for Eric Staal. 

So why did Minnesota make this trade?

I can think of a couple of reasons why Guerin made this trade. First, it is a much-needed culture change. He’s previously said in interviews and an appearance on Michael Russo’s Straight From the Source podcast, that he feels a shift inside the locker room is needed for this team to make steps.

More from Gone Puck Wild

Guerin was asked about the Wild’s roster heading into next season and he replied with a hard-hitting message. “This is a great place to play, it’s a great place to live, and I know players love it here. So if you want to stay here, here’s your opportunity. If not, we’ll find something else that works.”

It’s pretty clear what Bill Guerin’s message is, if you like Minnesota then you better be extremely motivated, or have been given a no-trade clause by the previous GM.

Guerin is saying you can’t get too comfortable playing here for the Wild or you will be traded and we certainly saw that this offseason, especially with the Kunin trade.

Last reason, Guerin was not happy with the result in the play in series. Some of the veteran players looked lethargic in the way they played, including Staal. Not to mention this season Staal looked like he took a step or two back throughout this year. This resulted in a lack of effort on the defensive side leading to more goals for the opposing team and a lack of effort on line rushes, battles in corners, and offensive zone play.

Johansson is younger and a bit quicker than Eric Staal, but who knows if he’s truly better. Given each player’s track record, Staal is the better player, but like it was said before Staal looked slow and not focused on playing. Which could be a result of his age.

So where does Johansson fit?

How it stands currently, Dean Evason will use Marcus Johansson as a top 6 center. Depending on if Marco Rossi makes the team out of camp, I believe Johansson will be used as our top line center replacing Staal. If Rossi makes the team out of camp, he’ll be one of our top two centers.

Now in my mind to be considered as a 1st line center that player should be able to produce 60 or more points in a given season. I understand that injury can play into factor or lack of teammate production, but a fair assessment for a number one center would be a 60 point guy.

The Wild are 1 of 6 NHL teams who have only had 1 or fewer centers to record 60 or more points in its teams’ last 3 years (Ducks 1/3, Coyotes 1/3, Wild 1/3, Canadians 1/3, Devils 0/3, & Senators 0/3).

In the Wild’s entire existence, only 2 centers have recorded over 60 points in a single season.

NEWARK, NJ – FEBRUARY 22: Minnesota Wild, Eric Staal #12, Mikko Koivu #9 (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ – FEBRUARY 22: Minnesota Wild, Eric Staal #12, Mikko Koivu #9 (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

2017-18′ Staal 76P

2016-17′ Staal 65P

2010-11′ Koivu 62P

2009-10′ Koivu 71P

2008-09′ Koivu 67P

Johansson in his career has never hit over 60 points but was mainly been used as a LW. Will the Sweden native record over 60 points this season? Well, I’ll let you decide that one.

Taking a look at the Wild’s center depth Johansson will basically be forced upon the number 1 center role.

You may ask well we have Marco Rossi, why can’t he be our number 1 center? Well, to maximize a player’s development you should ease him in. Throwing Rossi in right away and giving him 20 minutes a night could hurt his development, given that he may feel pressured to produce as the number one center.

2020-2021 Wild projected lines

Now of course these would change if Rossi plays or not, but here’s what I think the Wild’s lines will match up on opening night without Rossi.

Parise-Johansson-Fiala

Kaprizov-Ek-Bjugstad

Greenway-Bonino-Zuccarello

Foligno-Sturm-Hartman

Now let’s say Marco Rossi has an impressive camp and is ready to play in the National hockey league.

Parise-Johansson-Fiala

Kaprizov-Rossi-Zuccarello

Greenway-Ek-Bjugstad

Folingo-Bonino-Hartman

Personally, I think line-up number 2 looks a lot better but it depends if Guerin, Evason, and Brackett think their 9th overall pick is ready to go.

Final analysis

Johansson will be used as the Wild’s number one center regardless if Rossi plays or not. I do believe Johansson will have a good season playing with two goal-scorers like Parise and Fiala. Also playing under a familiar coach in Dean Evason should help a bit.

Johansson would take a lot of pressure off Rossi or Ek if he had a big season at center which would help each centers’ development as a player. Either way, I think it’s safe to say the Minnesota Wild need a big season out of Marcus Johansson.

All Data Via Hockey-Reference, Evolving-Hockey, & NHL.com