Johansen, Nashville’s newest Pred, impressed with club’s energy and attitude


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Ryan Johansen had to see it coming. It wasn’t a blindside and it certainly didn’t come from left field.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/01/2016 (2408 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ryan Johansen had to see it coming. It wasn’t a blindside and it certainly didn’t come from left field.

And, truthfully, when he got word he had been traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Nashville Predators nine days ago for Seth Jones, his first reaction was simply this: relief.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said Johansen prior to Thursday night’s game with the Winnipeg Jets. “It the first time for me being traded so there’s definitely a lot of different things you have to worry about than just hockey. That’s the main thing for me, coming to the rink and doing my job on the ice. We’ve had a four-game road trip right away and I’ve got to know some of the guys and spend some time with them than I would have being at home.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ryan Johansen during practice at the MTS Centre Thursday.

“But there’s a lot of adjustments. My girlfriend, with her college she’s switching to take online courses and stuff like that. The future plans have changed a little bit. But it’s an exciting time.

“It’s a fresh start and a big opportunity for me to take a huge step in helping this team win.”

The Johansen-for-Jones deal didn’t just qualify as a blockbuster, it was also unique in that it involved two young talents — Jones is just 21, Johansen is 23.

But while moving a cornerstone such as Jones was a shocking move for a Predators franchise that had such high expectations for him, in landing Johansen they have secured their No. 1 centre for years to come.

As Preds GM David Poile said after the trade: “Today, in my belief, we accomplished something we haven’t been able to do in 18 years of our history, and that’s to acquire a No. 1 centre.”

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, opted to move on after experiencing some dramatic highs and lows with their former first-rounder (fourth overall in 2010).

There was a nasty and public contract dispute last year, followed by a career-high point total of 71. This season opened with criticisms of his conditioning — he points to a health scare this summer that saw him hospitalized with an elevated heart rate — the firing of coach Todd Richards, and a benching by new boss John Tortorella.

And a ton of losing for a team many had pegged as a dark horse to make some noise in the playoffs this spring but is instead last overall in the NHL.

So, a breath of fresh air in Music City? A chance to recharge the batteries? An opportunity to rejuvenate his love for the game?

Yes, yes and heck, yes.

And even though the Preds headed into Thursday’s game having lost four straight — three since the Johansen-for-Jones deal — their new No. 1 centre can feel a difference with his new club.

“Even coming here and we’ve lost a few games, even going through this stretch… in the room, the energy and the attitude has been really refreshing,” said Johansen. “I’ve been really impressed with how these guys prepare and go about situations like the one we’re in right now. I don’t think in all the losing we did in Columbus that we were this excited to get on the ice. Everyone seems to wish it was this morning we were playing.

“That’s the attitude you need because if you get down and start thinking negatively, that’s just when it gets worse and worse.”

There may have been some red flags in Columbus, but the Preds have been trying to land a big pivot along the lines of a Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar for eons. Johansen’s skill was even on display during Thursday’s game-day skate. Moving in on a 2-on-1 drill with linemate James Neal, the big Vancouver product held on to the puck until he had backed Carter Hutton deep into the blue paint before roofing a shot over the netminder’s glove hand in one of those had-to-be-there-to-appreciate-it flashes of talent.

It’s the Predators’ hope there’s much more of that to follow in the years to come.

“He’s young, he’s big, he fills the centre-position need that we have. He’s a very talented kid,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. “I mean, he makes a lot of plays out on the ice, he sees the ice well and he’s got the skill set to make plays others might not be able to make.

“He’s done a really good job coming in here and has been very well-received by our team. He’s been a nice addition.”

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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