Trade for Jo­hansen huge for Preda­tors

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - TERESA M. WALKER

NASHVILLE, TENN. The Nashville Preda­tors stunned the NHL not once but twice in 2016 by trad­ing away a top de­fence­man. Ryan Jo­hansen is the big cen­tre landed with Nashville’s first big trade, a move al­most for­got­ten in the wake of the deal that brought P.K. Sub­ban to Mu­sic City.

With Nashville in the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, the deal for Jo­hansen is look­ing like one of gen­eral man­ager David Poile’s more mas­ter­ful swaps.

“Well, it was a big ad­di­tion at the time,” Preda­tors head coach Peter Lavi­o­lette said of Jo­hansen. “Pieces like that are hard to come by.

“He was young. He’s six foot three. He’s big. He’s skilled. He’s tal­ented. From an or­ga­ni­za­tional stand­point, the depth of what we needed, it made a lot of sense.”

The Preda­tors hoped Jo­hansen could be the topline cen­tre the fran­chise has been search­ing for since its in­au­gu­ral sea­son back in 1998-99.

Poile sent young de­fence­man Seth Jones, who had been paired with cap­tain Shea We­ber, to the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets for Jo­hansen on Jan. 6.

Look­ing back now, it’s a move over­shad­owed by Poile’s other trade last June, when he shocked the league by trad­ing We­ber to the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens for fel­low de­fence­man Sub­ban.

But Jo­hansen im­me­di­ately moved onto the top line where he helped the Preda­tors reach the play­offs last spring. They beat the Ana­heim Ducks in seven games only to lose to the San Jose Sharks in seven in the sec­ond round.

Now 24, Jo­hansen tied with line­mate Vik­tor Arvids­son with 61 points in his first full reg­u­lar sea­son in Nashville, and he also handed out a team-high 47 as­sists. Only 10 players in the NHL had more this sea­son.

“I think Ryan’s had an ex­cel­lent year and just the growth for me in him as a per­son and as a leader as some­body who wants to be that guy, to make a dif­fer­ence and make sure a team moves in the right di­rec­tion, it’s been no­tice­able this year that he’s re­ally try­ing to take own­er­ship,” Lavi­o­lette said.

Preda­tors for­ward Colin Wil­son called the trade another great move con­sid­er­ing Nashville needed a big No. 1 cen­tre and got it in Jo­hansen.

“He’s been great for us,” Wil­son said. “In a game that’s got­ten big and fast, it’s nice to have him there, and he’s been pro­duc­ing well for us and that line in gen­eral wasn’t here three, four years ago.”

Jo­hansen out­played Chicago cap­tain Jonathan Toews as Nashville swept the Black­hawks in the first round. In one mo­ment as they fought for the puck, the 218-pounder from Van­cou­ver stiff-armed Toews to the ice to grab pos­ses­sion.

“He’s ob­vi­ously a re­ally big guy,” line­mate Filip Fors­berg said. “And he can move well too, and I think just one of those guys that can do it all.”

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