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Buffalo Sabres Top 25 Under 25: T-#17 Ryan Johnson

The Minnesota senior has Sabres fans holding their breath

Russia v United States: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
Ryan Johnson helped Team USA win gold at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of staff writers and over 600 readers that ranked Buffalo Sabres players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production to rank each player.

University of Minnesota defenseman Ryan Johnson is the next man up and as one of three players tied for 17th on the list, he’s a player that probably should be a little higher, but perhaps a reason some voted him a little lower down the board is trepidation.

Johnson is the Sabres’ other first-round pick from the 2019 NHL Draft. You may better know this pick as the one they got from the St. Louis Blues as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade, which everyone in Buffalo feels a lot better about these days.

At six feet tall and 173 pounds, his strengths come from his outstanding skating ability, his decision-making on the ice, and his natural offensive instincts. He’s a puck rusher and he’s improved each season. He’s good and he’s getting better as he gets older and growing into his game which bodes well for his future. There’s a catch, however.

The thought was he would sign with the Sabres after last season and get his pro career started this year, most likely with the Rochester Americans. Instead, the 21-year-old is headed back to Minnesota to play his senior season with the Golden Gophers and that’s where the trepidation comes in.

If Johnson doesn’t sign with the Sabres before August 15, 2023, he can become a free agent and go wherever he wants. Johnson took part in Sabres development camp in July and said all the right things and enjoyed participating in it once again, but until he puts pen to paper there are no guarantees about what’s next.

Here’s Johnson handling the questions at Development Camp in July:

Ryan is the son of former NHL forward Craig Johnson, who has been a major influence on his play and the growth he’s made as a player. It’s nice to have your old man be someone that’s been through it and understands what it takes to reach the highest level. It should be mentioned that Craig was hired by the Anaheim Ducks to join Dallas Eakins’ coaching staff this summer and that the Johnsons are from Irvine, California just down the 405 from Los Angeles.

If Johnson signs on with the Sabres, he’ll be a tremendous addition to the menagerie of standout defensemen in the organization. Until that happens, everyone will be holding their breath waiting.