5. Albert Johansson, leader of the Detroit Red Wings "Sassy Swedes"
Speaking of a player who knows about winning, Detroit Red Wings prospect Albert Johansson, leader of the "Sassy Swedes," knows about winning with a Swedish Hockey League (SHL) championship title to his name.
Johansson is still working on consistency, gaining strength, and his gap control (based on my viewings). I’m sure there are other things he is working on, but those are the areas of opportunity that I have noticed. These opportunities are pretty common with young defensemen.
Interestingly enough, even with his lack of consistency, Johansson is a team-leading plus-ten for the year with the Grand Rapids Griffins. Alone, plus/minus isn’t a great statistic, but what if I told you that only nine players are plus on the entire Grand Rapids Griffins team?
If that doesn’t impress you much, I understand Shania Twain.
More important than his plus/minus, Johansson possesses skills you cannot teach. Sometimes, I joke that he has eyes that can see everywhere on the ice all at once, but it’s only half-jokingly. Johansson is stupendous with his vision and playmaking. He reads play effectively in all zones, but this trait is most prominent at stopping opponents from cycling in his own zone. Even more importantly, once he gets the puck in the defensive zone, Johansson doesn’t sit there thinking of what to do. He already knew where he was going well before he had the puck (or so it seems).
I’m not sure if Johansson’s skill is considered elite or ever will be, but it’s certainly high-end.
On top of his high-end qualities, Johansson seems to be working on his shot and getting shots through to the net. Although three goals doesn’t seem like much, Johansson had five goals in 53 games played last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Another trait that I love about Johansson, especially for his slight frame (6-foot 185 lbs), is his feistiness. He backs down from no one and nothing. Quite similar to another player in the Red Wings’ system (see below), Johansson protects himself and his teammates.
For instance, on Wednesday night’s game (on January 24, 2024), an opponent kneed fellow Red Wings prospect Sebastian Cossa in the head. Who went to the box immediately following the commotion for roughing (and brought the opposing player to the box with him)? Johansson.
Johansson may be a bit too aggressive at times. His climbing penalty minutes indicate as much, but it’s refreshing to see. Sometimes, the Red Wings lack a spine. Icing a player like Johansson helps provide at least part of a spine.
In the future, Johansson might be the perfect defensive partner for another mean customer in Seider. Anytime I see Johansson in between whistles on the ice, he’s in the thick of the huddles on the ice. He’s directing traffic, telling teammates where they should be. I’m unsure how important these qualities are for Seider’s defensive partner. Still, if he’s looking for someone with effective communication who is a great all around teammate, Johansson is the guy.
There aren’t many players with his skill or spiciness, so Johansson is definitely a prospect that I’d hang on to if I’m Yzerman.