Over the offseason, the Capitals, in a need to make room for other contracts, sent the team’s third leading-scorer Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils in a salary dump.
Johansson, who was in his native of Sweden when the move was completed, was sound asleep when the news broke. When he woke up, he had tons of messages on his phone and spent the next few days in shock. It was awkward seeing Mojo in a new set of gear.
Now, a couple of months later, the forward is beginning to settle in to his new role on his new team. During his time in the Capitals organization, the 27-year-old was considered a bit player with skills that were often under appreciated. Now, playing for the Devils, he’s one of the most experienced guys on the team and his role is different.
On Saturday, Swedish public service TV, SVT Sport, broadcasted an NHL game for the first time in 28 years – which also turned out to be Johansson’s first game in a different jersey than the Washington Capitals. Mojo spoke to the TV network during the last practice before their home opener against the Colorado Avalanche.
“If you play your cards right, you always have the chance at a bigger role. Here I’m considered more of a leader with the coaching staff”, Johansson said in Swedish to Marie Lehmann of SVT Sport.
“There’s no Nicklas Backstrom or Alex Ovechkin here. But I have a chance to take the next step and be one of the guys that produces every night.”
Johansson’s NHL debut came in a loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on October 8th, 2010. After that debut game, he played in exactly 500 more matches for the Washington Capitals. This Friday, he will see his old mates for the first time in the regular season, and he will be doing it in the company of one of the most exciting young players in the game right now – first overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Nico Hischier.
Having played seven years alongside Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus could spot a few resemblances with the two centermen.
“I think there’s certain similarities between Nicklas and Nico, which is a pretty big compliment to give a guy,” Johansson said with a smile and a nod to his close friend Backstrom. “[Hischier] is a really skilled player, good both offensively and defensively. He has a lot of hockey in him and it’s going to be really exciting to follow him. He’s been awesome in the pre-season games. It will be interesting.”
The Swiss youngster centers the second line with Johansson to the left, and another Swede to the right. 19-year-old Jesper Bratt came out of nowhere and grabbed a roster spot. The line combined to give Johansson his first two regular-season goals with his new team October 9.
“He’s been so, so good,” Johansson said of Bratt. “We’ve almost laughed at him on the bench when he’s on the ice. He’s so skilled with the puck, he’s fast and got every condition needed to succeed at this level. He has really earned his spot on the team. It feels good to have another Swede in the group, a young guy that I might help out a bit.”
After finishing last place in the Eastern Conference last season, the Devils are 3-0-0 to start the new season.
There will be lot of familiarities Friday night. But one thing’s for sure: Marcus Johansson is moving on as a New Jersey Devil.
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