A look at Albert Johansson as the leader of the Sassy Swedes

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports /

My mom and I are seated behind Michael Hutchinson’s office. The Manitoba Moose’s starting lineup is announced, which includes Brad Lambert. Oh great, here we go again. The last time a National Hockey League (NHL) prospect opposed the Grand Rapids Griffins, Dmitri Ovchinnikov scored a hat trick.

Then, I hear the Griffins starting lineup. Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johansson are slated to play as defensive partners? In this economy? I looked at my mom and said, “The Moose don’t stand a chance now!”

The Griffins delivered on that promise, beating the Moose 5-1.

Granted, the defensive pair started the previous game in Texas. Regrettably, they didn’t have much to show for their efforts, but it always takes a game or two as they get acclimated with each other. Also, Albert Johansson recently returned from injury, so he hasn’t played much hockey this year.

Albert Johansson is a prospect destined to make an impact for the Detroit Red Wings sooner rather than later.

In eleven games, Johansson has earned four assists with eight penalty minutes and a plus-seven. Although we have better metrics than plus/minus nowadays, Johansson currently leads the team in this regard. It may interest you to know that Marco Kasper is a plus-1, Edvinsson and Elmer Söderblom are even, and Jonatan Berggren is a minus-3.

I bring up plus/minus because it helps confirm my eye test that Albert Johansson has played exceptionally well.

Albert Johansson makes the correct play more often than not. He doesn’t have to backtrack, going behind the net to assess options or waiting for his teammates to change, because he knows where he’s going with the puck before he gets it.

Although it’s only an opinion, Håkan Andersson seemed the most excited about Johansson after the 2019 NHL entry draft (around 35 seconds into the video, he discusses Johansson and again around 2:36).

He mentioned that another scout stated Johansson may be the best of the 2019 Red Wings picks and that Andersson is inclined to agree. I’m inclined to believe that Moritz Seider wasn’t included in that consideration, but maybe he was, as Johansson is everything you could want in a six-foot defenseman.

Andersson elaborates further on Albert Johansson:

"“I talked to some players [in Färjestad of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL)] and they…just went wow, the first time that he came up and practiced with the team because he was so effortless and made such good plays…three, four guys just sitting there, laughing on the bench when we were scrimmaging because the kid, he did everything right with the puck.”"

Since his draft year, Johansson has performed well. Last season ended prematurely with an injury, and Johansson was injured earlier this season. If Johansson gets any luck with his health, I think he will give the Red Wings a difficult decision when a Griffins defenseman needs to be recalled to the Detroit Red Wings.

Opponents have difficulty cycling when Johansson is on the ice as he positions himself just right and steals the puck. As mentioned earlier, his astute vision allows him to turn the puck up the ice almost immediately upon retrieval, with the Griffins clearing the zone. More often than not, when Johansson is on the ice, the Griffins are either transitioning to or cycling within the offensive zone.

It’s refreshing to see after the number of times I’ve watched the Griffins standing around as pucks fill their nets.

Another thing that I’ve noticed with Johansson is that he has improved his shooting and his willingness to do so. It isn’t Filip Hronek hard, but it’s accurate and expertly placed. His vision in playmaking is translating to his shot as sometimes he’s aiming for the net, while other times he’s aiming for a stick, rebound, or hoping someone tips it in off their body. Dare I say reminiscent of Nicklas Lidström-esk? Of course, Johansson’s not at that level, but he’s brilliant.

He seems to be able to handle any defensive pair well, kind of like Jake Walman. It doesn’t matter who they’re paired with; they will make any pair better. Johansson is a great communicator, especially with a guy like Edvinsson, who sometimes gets distracted. Everyone is having a powwow while Edvinsson is off on his own—looking at the big TV screen, in the crowd, or off in dreamland.

Johansson seems to understand how to communicate with Edvinsson in a way that works for Edvinsson, which is huge. He’s very patient and mature for any age, let alone a young player.

Johansson is on the path to becoming a top-four defenseman who helps on both specialty teams (likely the second units). Wherever he is in the lineup, Johanson will be an integral part of the Wings moving forward.

While we wait for Johansson to arrive in Detroit, I’m grateful to see him blossom in Grand Rapids. Johansson gets tons of ice time (it seems like Edvinsson and Johansson are on the ice every other or every second shift) and will get to play in almost all situations.

Although the season has been rough for the Griffins, the team and fans are fortunate to see Johansson for the short time he’s here.


Swedish Sass & Thanksgiving Food

Firstly, I’m not sure why Johansson hasn’t experienced a Thanksgiving dinner, but it makes me sad to hear that. Mainly because he and Edvinsson were in North America last Thanksgiving, they should have experienced one of the yummiest holidays ever invented. Maybe they weren’t invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, or perhaps they didn’t want to go, but whatever the reason, I am sad for Johansson.

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Secondly, I don’t consider his response sass. He seems interested in learning more about Thanksgiving but is a bit short. Johansson might be short with the interviewer because they don’t have the best tone. They ask, “You don’t know your favorite Thanksgiving food,” in their response to Johansson’s initial thought, which is also a bit condescending. It’s not a holiday that is celebrated outside of North America. Thus, Johansson’s response is completely understandable (although I wish the Swedes experienced a proper Thanksgiving last year).