Welcome to the 2022 Edition of the Vancouver Canucks Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. The list includes all players in the Canucks system who were born after April 15th, 1998.
What’s that quote about a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma?
I think that quote applies to Filip Johansson.
The Swedish defenceman had an “interesting” start to his potential NHL future when he was selected 24th overall by the Minnesota Wild back in 2018. That was former Wild GM Paul Fenton’s first draft selection for his franchise, and it remains a head-scratcher to this day.
Perhaps it was part of the reason why Fenton only lasted for one season as Minnesota’s GM.
Johansson was consistently ranked as a low-end second-round pick, due to his boring, responsible game and low ceiling, but that didn’t stop Fenton from taking a swing, if you want to call it that.
In the years since, Johansson has slowly earned a bigger role playing for Frolunda in the SHL, but he hasn’t taken the kind of leap that you’d expect from a first-round draft pick.
That’s why the Wild let him elected not to retain his rights when they let him hit free agency in June.
There were some positive takeaways from Johansson’s game in Frolunda last season. He earned a bigger role on one of the SHL’s best teams. He also had a random offensive breakout in the postseason, where he scored five goals and posted seven points in nine games.
Here’s all eight of Filip Johansson’s SHL goals this season.— Faber (@ChrisFaber39) June 13, 2022
The final five are in the playoffs. Johansson scored five goals in nine SHL playoff games. pic.twitter.com/SEv6XP7dW4
However, as Chris Faber notes in his scouting report of Johansson, there are some red flags to be aware of in his game.
“There’s not a lot to love about his defensive game,” Faber writes. “He’s not physical at all and goes with more of a stretch and poke type of defending instead of using leverage with the body to generate turnovers. He often gets caught pinching too much and those poorly timed pinches create concerns defensively.”
It’s hard to fault general manager Patrik Allvin for taking a flier on a free agent prospect, especially one who plays the most premium position in hockey right now — right-side defence.
However, it’s hard for me to shake the feeling that this is one player we overvalued in our Top 25 Under 25 Rankings. Part of that was probably because he was a bit of an unknown player in this market. He also was a lofty draft pick, plays a premium position, and performed well in the SHL playoffs.
Our SB Nation family over at Hockey Wilderness in Minnesota ranked him as high as #13 after he was drafted, but he fell off of their Top 25 altogether last season. In fairness, Minnesota has one of the strongest pipelines in the NHL, whereas Vancouver’s organizational depth is evidently lacking.
As much as we want to believe in Johansson, his NHL future is certainly murky.
What’s Next for Johansson?
I initially believed Johansson would join the Abbotsford Canucks this season, but it’s now apparent that he’s going to be loaned back to Frolunda for the 2022-23 season. He’s already been playing in Champions Hockey League action for the squad to begin the season, and he’s gotten off to a nice start offensively with three assists in four games.
However, if there’s one takeaway from this article, it’s that we shouldn’t be fooled by his offensive production. This is a defender whose calling card is supposedly strong defensive play. The scouting reports suggest that he still has some work to do in that regard, and he also needs to work on his skating as well. Not promising signs for a defender who will be 23 by the end of the season.