Columbus Blue Jackets centre Ryan Johansen will make his season debut in the Jackets’ season opener tonight in Buffalo.
It was unclear whether or not Johansen would be available tonight after sitting out all of training camp over a contract dispute. The restricted free agent went unsigned all summer until a number of injuries forced the Blue Jackets’ hand to sign Johansen to a deal they likely otherwise would not have signed him to. (NHLNumbers.com has Johansen’s contract breakdown)
It took Johansen over 24 hours to clear up immigration issues to get to Columbus, but he did practice with the team on Tuesday. Early reports were that Johansen did not look sharp at times during the practice, but that is to be expected from a player who was away from his team all summer. He was back on the ice this morning for the Blue Jackets’ gameday skate and will be in the lineup tonight vs. the Sabres. Johansen was supposed to start the season on a line with Nathan Horton and Boone Jenner, but Horton is out with a back issue and Jenner has a broken hand.
With his two regular linemates on the shelf, the 22-year-old pivot will open the season on a line with Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson. Neither of them are as offensively gifted as Jenner or Horton, which will in all likelihood hurt Johansen’s production to start the year. However, with Brandon Dubinsky also out for six weeks, Johansen will be leaned on heavily to produce, but will also draw the oppositions toughest matchup.
Regardless of who he lines up with or against, Johansen is a special talent, coming off of a breakout year where he scored 33 goals wit 30 assists (63 points) in 82 games. Another 30-plus goal season should attainable for this budding superstar. He along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton have as much upside as anybody in the NHL entering the 2014-15 season.