Summer’s rolling along, so we better get cracking on our recap of the recent NHL Draft. Before you know it — perhaps as quick as a Neil Smith tenure as GM — hockey season will be underway, so let’s get cracking with the RotoRob Draft Recap, with the No. 1 pick, defenceman Erik Johnson, kicking it off.
Johnson looked like a lock to be a top 10 pick heading into the 2006 World Junior Championships. But his performance there rocketed him to the top of the heap, making him the favourite to be the top pick in the draft.
Two years ago, Johnson was playing for the Academy of Holy Angels in Minnesota. Soon, he’ll be a holy terror, striking fear into opposing NHL forwards who dare enter the St. Louis Blues’ defensive zone with their head down.
This season, Johnson turned in a solid effort for the USNTDP U-18 Team, scoring 16 goals and 49 points in just 47 games. He followed that up with another great international showing, this time at the Under-18 World Championships in Sweden, his second straight year playing in that tourney, both of which resulted in gold medals for the U.S., marking the first time in the country’s history it won that tourney back-to-back.
The U.S. development program really helped Johnson hone his strong work ethic and become a much better player. Having first started playing when he was about four years old, Johnson actually almost quit hockey when he didn’t make his Squirt A team, but instead decided to throw everything he had at the B team. T’was a wise decision for such a young pup.
Johnson, a 6’4″, 222-pound man-child, hails from the hockey rich area of Bloomington, Minnesota (in fact, he became the first Minnesota-born player ever drafted first overall, but fifth American-born player to turn the trick). He’s a very tough player — accumulating 88 minutes in penalties this season. Johnson is also a very strong skater who is incredibly physically skilled.
Although he might be good enough to step right in and help the Blues this coming season, Johnson will honour his commitment to the University of Minnesota and play college hockey. But don’t worry, he’ll be well worth waiting for. Johnson is perhaps the best defenceman prospect the NHL has seen for 15 years, and in short order this 18-year-old will help make St. Louis fans forget all about having Chris Pronger (a player Johnson is often compared to) bail on the team last year.