Early Saturday morning, at long last, the Washington Capitals announced via press release that forward Marcus Johansson had been re-signed to a two-year, $4 million contract. He’ll be earning $1.825mil in 2013-14, and $2.175mil in 2014-15.
Johansson, drafted by the Capitals in the first round (24th overall) of the 2009 NHL draft, scored 22 points in 34 games last season, and was third on the team in assists. Much of his success was due in part to his eventual pairing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the Capitals top line after returning from a concussion in March.
“We finished very well, and they played very well together,” said Capitals head coach Adam Oates of the Backstrom, Johansson, and Ovechkin pairing. “Marcus is a lot younger than Backie and Ovi, and we’re looking for him to keep growing as a hockey player and improving.”
Oates laid to rest any doubt about where Johansson would be playing this upcoming season. Johansson is listed on the Capitals roster as a center, but Oates said he would be filling the left wing spot on the top line again this season, citing the young forward’s speed and his success with his linemates Backstrom and Ovechkin earlier this year.
“We look for him to play left wing,” said Oates. “They had some success, so I’d like to see where that goes, ‘cause of his speed and the way that we play. His speed is a huge attribute, and you’re going to see that more from a winger than you are a center.”
Oates addressed the topic of Johansson’s development, which many say has been stunted by inconsistent coaching, being shuffled around positionally the last several years, and simply not fulfilling expectations. But Oates has faith Johansson can get there.
“I think honestly, he needs a little more time,” said Oates. “He’s younger than those guys, he needs more time in the league, more games, more feeling the position, more growing into his body, and getting stronger.”
Oates thinks the young forward is in a place where he can develop as a player and prove himself in the NHL, while contributing to the Capitals’ success.
“He’s got a great opportunity to get started with two great hockey players, a good situation, the coaches like him, the GM likes him, and he’s got an opportunity for the next few years to prove that he can be a dominant player in this league, and he’ll be rewarded if he succeeds.”