Buffalo Sabres Top 20 Under 24 Prospect Rankings, #13: Ryan Johnson

Johnson opened his season last week against Penn State

The Top 20 Under 24 is a collaboration by members of the Die By The Blade community. It was a combination of five staff writers and over 300 readers that ranked prospects under the age of 24 and have played less than 125 NHL games.

Ryan Johnson kicked off his season last week with two games against Penn State. The Gophers won both games and Johnson played fine. There was nothing flashy, but he was solid in his own end of the ice.

I’m planning to do some tracking of Johnson throughout the season to see how he performs in his sophomore season. Below are some shot share and primary shot contributions data for Johnson, as well as the other defenders on Minnesota’s roster from the season opener.

The 19-year-old is a smooth skating defender that makes a good first pass out of his zone. It’ll be interesting to see if we get a lot of transition action from Johnson this season if he’s going to play with Brock Faber. The 2020 second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings is a transition machine and carried a lot of that responsibility in the first two games.

It’s early in the season, but I’m beginning to craft the idea that we may need to change up expectations for the first-round pick. In theory, his skating and transition game could translate to offense. However, I don’t think that’s ever going to be the case. He doesn’t have a history of that over the last few years.

He didn’t produce a lot of offense in the USHL, only eight points as a freshman at Minnesota, and so far not a lot in his second college season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

We could see Johnson develop into a modern day defensive-defenseman. He’s good in his own end of the ice and is aggressive at times at disrupting rushes into the zone. If you combine that with his skating ability, there’s a spot for that player in the league.

Now, you may be hoping for more of an impact player out of a first round pick, but it is what it is at this point.

The next thing we’ll have to watch for is to see if Johnson makes the US World Junior squad. He was cut last year and I would classify him as being on the bubble this year.