Johansson Could Be Another European Gem
The Chicago Blackhawks have recently made a habit of trying to find European players that end up being quite the NHL stand-outs. Whether it’s Artemi Panarin or Michal Kempny, the Blackhawks are not going to shy away from giving a shot to a player who excels overseas.
This off-season, the Blackhawks decided to sign Kempny, along with forward Martin Lundberg and goalie Lars Johansson. While Kempny has already made his impression with the Blackhawks at prospect camp, Lundberg and Johansson have yet to show the organization what they have coming into training camp in the Fall.
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Next week we’ll take an in-depth look at Lundberg, this week we will learn a little more about Swedish goaltender Lars Johansson.
Johansson isn’t your typical NHL rookie. At 29-years old and on a one-year deal, Johansson doesn’t have a lot of time to develop like a normal rookie prospect would. Luckily for him, he’s already pretty good in net. Last season in the SHL, Johansson was named the Swedish league’s Goalie of the Year and won the league championship with Frölunda HC.
Over the past three seasons, Johansson has led Frölunda in net with 93 games played with an overall record of 56-27 with 11 shutouts. His save percentage in his last three seasons is .918 and his goals against comes out to 1.92, including a 1.74 GAA and .927 save percentage last season in his Goalie of the Year performance.
While the North American style of hockey is different from that in Europe, Johansson numbers suggest that he could handle himself pretty well. Plus, on a one-year, $575,000 deal, Johansson is an inexpensive gamble for Chicago.
Open Battle For Backup?
The worst-case scenario for Johansson and the Blackhawks is that he plays the entire season with the Rockford IceHogs and gives Mac Carruth some competition in the AHL. Best-case scenario? Johansson pushes Scott Darling to improve and hold onto the Blackhawks backup goalie spot, or Johansson plays so well that he takes over the backup spot himself.
Realistically, some sort of middle-ground scenario is going to be the case for Johansson and his time with Chicago. Unless he blows everyone out of the water in training camp, Johansson will begin the season with the IceHogs along with Carruth. If he plays well, he could be the full-time IceHogs starter, get a handful of NHL games under his belt, and possibly play his way into another contract with the Blackhawks or with another NHL team.
It makes sense to bring in a player of Johansson’s caliber to ignite a bit of healthy competition for the backup spot in Chicago as Darling’s play last season was slightly underwhelming after the 2014-15 season he put together, helping Chicago in major ways on their path to the Stanley Cup.
Knowing his job isn’t a given, Darling could be elevated by the presence of Johansson and the idea that the Blackhawks could be giving a try-out for the backup spot to Corey Crawford.
It’s hard to project the future of a 29-year old on a one-year deal, but if Johansson exceeds expectations and takes the backup job away from Darling and is able to give Crawford rest when needed and still Chicago a good chance at winning, he could see himself get another contract from the Blackhawks or at the very least another NHL team.
As stated before, Johansson will have to get accustomed to the North American game, but he looks to probably have no trouble with the transition. Here’s to hoping that Johansson can prove the Blackhawks right, yet again, with another European gem.
So what do you think? What is the best case scenario for Johansson in his time with the Blackhawks? Let us know in the comment section below!
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