Lucas Johansen never really had much of a chance defending against his older brother when they were younger.
Nashville Predators All-Star center Ryan Johansen is five years older than Lucas and when the two played one-on-one in their home in Port Moody, British Columbia, Lucas had a tough time seeing the puck.
“Whenever we were playing hockey he always had possession so I had to figure out how to defend him,” Lucas Johansen said.
On Friday night in Buffalo, Johansen, 18, followed in his older brother’s footsteps when he climbed onto the NHL draft stage as the Capitals’ first-round selection, 28th overall, of the 2016 draft. Ryan Johansen, who was taken fourth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2010 NHL draft, was in First Niagara Center for the big moment.
“He was giving me a hard time,” Lucas told reporters in Buffalo. “He said this is the time you get to beat me. I’m not complaining going a little after (in the draft). But his advice was to just enjoy it and soak it all in and I’m trying to do that.”
Ryan Johansen, who now stands 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, entered the NHL at the age of 19 and within a year was on his way to scoring 33 goals with the Blue Jackets.
As a defenseman Lucas Johansen (6-foot-2, 176 pounds) figures to take a little longer to develop. He’ll attend the Capitals’ development camp beginning Tuesday at Kettler, where he’ll give the Caps a closer look at why they made him their first-round selection.
“Probably one of the best attributes we have with Lucas is his intelligence,” Capitals assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “He’s got a very high hockey IQ. He’s an excellent skater and skates well with the puck. He has the ability to lug it out of the (defensive) zone. He plays well on the power play because of his patience and his hockey sense. He seems to make the right decisions with it. A good skater, good hands and a very intelligent player.”
The Capitals traded down two spots to draft Johansen, sending the 26th overall pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the 28th and 87th picks overall. Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said the Caps had their sights set on another player taken just ahead of them (possibly left wing Max Jones, who went 24th overall to Anaheim, or left wing Riley Tufte, who went 25th overall to Dallas) and when he was taken, they figured Johansen would still be on the board at No. 28.
“A player went just in front of us that we had targeted,” MacLellan said. “The next guy on the list was Johansen. Two teams acquired about (us) moving back. One offered a fourth (round pick) and one offered a third, so we took the third (from St. Louis).”
While Ryan Johansen grew up idolizing Bobby Orr (he played defense until he was 14), Lucas Johansen modeled his game after Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
“I just saw how efficient he was and how smart he was,” Johansen said. “It seemed like he was always two steps ahead of his opponent and that’s kind of how I want to play the game. … As I grew older I kind of liked having everything in front of me as a defenseman, having control, and that’s kind of how I play the game.”
Johansen has played the past two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, recording 10 goals and 39 assists in 69 games last season and another two goals and six assists in 18 playoff games. He inherited much of the ice time from Caps top defensive prospect Madison Bowey, who left Kelowna to play for the AHL Hershey Bears last season.
Kelowna has churned out dozens of NHL defensemen, including Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Tyler Myers. Johansen would like to be the next, but Mahoney says he’ll need to beef up a bit before playing for the Capitals.
“Like a lot of younger guys and quite a few guys from this year’s draft, he can get stronger,” Mahoney said. “He’s still a young looking, late birthday. We can see him putting on more weight and getting stronger and being even more effective in his own end.”
“I need to get stronger and get faster and improve everything,” he said. “Make sure I’m on a steady incline. I’m very confident in my skating ability and my puck-moving skills and that I’ll be a defender in the NHL. It’s just a matter of getting stronger and getting faster.”
Typically, defensemen take three or four years of development before getting a regular spot on an NHL roster, but the Caps aren’t putting a timetable on Johansen.
“It’s up to Lucas,” Mahoney said. “It’s up to him to come to development camp and be a sponge and try to soak up as much information our coaches and people have for him, get seven or eight weeks of training and come back to the rookie tournament (in September).
“As far as how much he progresses and how quickly he progresses, that’ll be up to him because we’re going to do everything we can.”
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