Friday morning, former Capitals forward Marcus Johansson held his first audio conference with North American media since being acquired by the New Jersey Devils. Johansson called the trade “shocking” and “weird,” admitting he “had no clue” the Capitals were shopping him.
Johansson was traded to the Devils late in the evening of July 2. In his native Sweden which is approximately six hours ahead, Johansson was sleeping and first found out about the news when he woke up and checked his phone.
During nearly every response to the media, the 26-year-old Johansson hammered home how he’s become “excited” about his new opportunity. Johansson, who scored 24 goals in Washington last season, instantly becomes one of New Jersey’s best offensive players.
Johansson’s full interview with the press is transcribed below.
What’s your reaction to the trade and the Capitals salary cap issues?
Marcus Johansson: “Yeah, it’s been a little different week for me and my family. Yeah I think everyone at first, it’s kind of shocking and weird when you get traded. It takes a little bit to sink in. Now, we’re very excited about this. I think it’s a great opportunity for me and my family to take the next step in my career. I feel very welcome coming to New Jersey. You see great opportunities. It’s a great team and a great organization that I’m coming to. I’m excited to come over come September and get started.”
Ray Shero said you were asleep when this trade was made. When you woke up and looked at your phone, what was your initial thought.
Marcus Johansson: “I barely remember, I was still half asleep when I saw it. First you’re in shock and trying to figure out what’s going on a little bit. And just go through the texts and everything to see what’s happening. As I said, at first it’s just shock. The first you think about is that you have to move and leave our home in Washington and all of that stuff. But as soon as it sunk in a little bit, you start to see the positive sides of it and all the chances and opportunities to go somewhere else and create new memories with the family, and new hockey memories as well and be a part of something that I think is really moving in the right direction as a whole. The Devils organization is so now I’m just looking forward to it and am really happy about this opportunity.”
Where position are you most comfortable in the lineup?
Marcus Johansson: “Yeah, I have played [on the right wing] for a little bit, but not as much as left wing and center. As of lately, as of this whole season, I played left wing so I think that’s where I’m most comfortable right now. I think most players can play any position, it just takes getting some used to. I’m hoping for whatever comes my way when I get there. As I said, I’m happy about this chance and this opportunity to play on this team and take the next step in my career.”
What are your thoughts from going from a Cup-contending team to the worst team in the East?
Marcus Johansson: “I only just see positives. We have a really interesting team and it’s moving in the right direction I feel like. I don’t mind being an underdog either. I think we have a great team and if we can just put all of the pieces together, I think we can surprise a lot of people. I’m looking forward to that. I see it as a great thing and being a part of a thing that is being built and being better every day and every year and that’s a great feeling.”
When Washington didn’t get to the Cup Final this year, did you sense that there would be big changes made?
Marcus Johansson: “Yeah, I think everybody did. I didn’t get the sense I would be moved, but you never know what was going to happen. And there was a lot of guy to re-sign and stuff like that so you never really know what’s going to happen. I didn’t expect it when it happened, but right now, as I said, I’m just really happy about it and glad to move forward. This is something that is really good for me and I’m just looking forward to it.”
You’ve played against the Devils your entire career. What do you see from them with Coach Hynes and Ray Shero running the program?
Marcus Johansson: “I think they have a really strong team. It’s always tough to go into New Jersey and play. And they’re really playing a team-game, I think, all over the four lines they have. That’s the really good thing. That’s what every team looks to have. Hopefully we can keep building on that and as I said, the depth I think they have is good. When you get that together and play as a team, that’s a really strength.”
Why do you think the Capitals couldn’t get over the hump in the second round?
Marcus Johansson: “I think if people knew the answer to that, it would have been much easier for us. I think when it comes down to it, we’re just not playing our best when we needed to play our best. I think that was the thing last year. We had a Game Seven at home this year, which we didn’t really play well in. We didn’t really give ourselves a chance, while Pittsburgh played their best game. That’s what it comes down to. You have to play your best game when you need to the most and we didn’t.”
Are you looking forward to playing with all the new youth of the Devils?
Marcus Johansson: “That’s awesome. There’s going to be a lot of hunger on the team and everybody is excited and that’s a good thing. I think we’re going to be a strong team and a fast team. And that’s always fun. That’s how I like to play too. I’m just really looking forward to it. It’s a great challenge for everyone and if we take it the right way and play together, it’s going to be a strong team. So I’m just seeing opportunities.”
Going into the Draft, did you have any thoughts on Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick? (The Devils drafted Nico Hischier first overall.)
Marcus Johansson: “Honestly, I don’t know much. Since I had no clue of this coming up, I didn’t really pay too much attention to [the Draft]. He seems like a really good hockey player. Being taken number one overall in the Draft, that says a lot. It’s going to be fun playing with him and seeing how he develops this year. I think he’s going to be something that’s really good for a lot of years for this organization.”
A quick scouting report on the other forwards that you played against on the Devils: Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. How do think you can mesh together and produce more scoring for this team?
Marcus Johansson: “I think there’s some real talent on this team. I think you saw it last year with Hall, he came in and did some really good things. And as you said, Palmieri over the last few years too. If we keep building on that and get some confidence and start winning some games early in the season, to a young team that’s going to do a lot. If we get off to a good start, I think there’s a lot of guys who can produce a lot of points and I think that’s going to be big for this team.”
Do you know anyone on this team?
Marcus Johansson: “No, I don’t. I actually don’t know anybody. So it’s going to be fun going over there and meeting everybody and make some new friends. This is going to be fun. It would have been fun to know someone when you get there, but you get to know people pretty quickly when you spend time together at camp so that’s not going to be a problem.”
When are you coming to New Jersey? Take us through your summer.
Marcus Johansson: “I’m back in Sweden where I live and started working out and preparing for the season. We haven’t decided how exactly we’re going to do yet, because this changed our plans a little bit with all this happening. I think we’re going to go to Washington first obviously to pack up the house at the end of August and then try to get over to New Jersey as soon as possible to try and find a home and somewhere to live and meet everybody and get to know some people before it all starts. I want to have some time to settle in and hopefully get the family to settle in a little bit too. We haven’t really planned it out yet, but I think we’re going to get in pretty early.”
How did playing on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams bring out the best in you?
Marcus Johansson: “I think we had a good thing going all year. We really got to know each other on the ice, and I think the more you play with someone the easier it gets. That helped us out a lot. We were just three players that were pretty creative and played with a lot of speed. When we did that and working for each other, it made it all pretty easy. That was a lot of fun. It was good for me to be on the same line for pretty much the whole year.”
Have you talked with John Hynes yet?
Marcus Johansson: “I talked to him quickly – late at night when I found out. That was a good conversation. It seems like everyone’s really happy to have me come to New Jersey, which is obviously a good feeling for me. He seems to have a good idea of what he wants to do and how he wants to coach everything. That makes me more comfortable too and makes me more excited to get over there. John seems like a great person and a great coach so I’m just seeing positive things.”
This has been a team struggling to score goals. What did you think you can bring offensively?
Marcus Johansson: “I’m just going to try to play my game. I play with a lot of speed and be creative and use my line mates as much as I can. I think most Swedish players are like that. I think that’s how you’re successful too. I’m just going to try and play my game and help out in any way I can.”
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