I’ve written pieces like today’s before for this site, however this year I decided to do a little bit of a twist on the subject. Usually, a “Does X player make the team?” piece is a feature on a prospect who is closing in on making their NHL debut with the New Jersey Devils. This past Friday, Mike wrote a piece profiling the battle for the final few forward spots on the team, and within it, he listed Andreas Johnsson as likely being on the roster. Looking back at just how flat of a first season he had in New Jersey, and with hungry young players nipping at his heels, I decided to look today at whether Johnsson will or should be on the roster for 2021-22.
The Acquisition and (Lack of) Impact
In early October of last year, the Devils would pull the trigger on a trade sending Joey Anderson to Toronto in exchange for Johnsson. At the time, it seemed like a very good deal, as the Devils parted with a role player in exchange for a player who at worst seemed to project as a Middle 6 forward. In his first two full seasons with Toronto, Johnsson scored at a 0.59 ppg pace in 2018-19 and a 0.49 ppg in 2019-20 before the season was abruptly postponed. While the production dip wasn’t ideal from one season to the next, over a full season that’s only an 8 point decrease in totals; again, not ideal, but not exactly devastating either.
After adjusting to a new team and coach during training camp, Johnsson still showed some signs of acclimating as he didn’t post a point in his first five games in red and black. In his next eight games, things improved and he contributed six points, putting him at 0.46 ppg after 13 games. In addition, this little point cluster came on both sides of the Devils’ Covid-19 shutdown in February. Okay that production is more like it, that’s a bit below his ppg from 2019-20, but it’s still in that ballpark and he could maybe keep up this pace. At the very least, maybe he’ll be streaky and have these little hot bursts every so often!
Oh February Gerard, you were so naive! Johnsson’s name would only appear on the scoresheet five more times over the 37 other contests he would play in his first Devils season. His 0.22 ppg was utterly discouraging for a player who we had hoped would be a good scoring addition in our Top 6. Johnsson also would find himself sinking lower and lower in the lineup, with less usage as the season went on.
The Outlook for 2021-22
Now I’m not willing to COMPLETELY write Johnsson off just yet for a few reasons. The first would be the same pass that a lot of guys are getting from last season: no real preseason and less time to adjust to new teammates. That won’t be an issue for 2021--22, so if we still see the Johnsson of 2021 on the ice this season, we can wash this reason away. The other reason is that basically the entire team, including Andreas, was dealing with Covid-19; some of the players have stated that with the condensed schedule and needing additional time to recover from being ill, it wound up affecting their play even after they were all cleared.
This isn’t to say Johnsson is getting a free pass for 2021-22; I think Mike’s blurb about him from his piece on Friday pinpointed exactly what will determine if Johnsson makes the roster or not:
Andreas Johnsson, considering he has a salary of $3.4M, is very unlikely to not find himself on the roster on opening night, though I’d say it’s not out of the question that he is a scratch if he doesn’t get some traction in the preseason. It’s a longshot that he ends up not on the roster at all, but the Devils have enough interesting options on the wing that Johnsson has to at least do a little bit to make the team.
While Mike still sees Andreas on the roster (albeit as a healthy scratch), I think if he has a preseason with little to no production, he could find himself being waived, and possibly heading to Utica, As Mike also stated, there’s interesting options for the Devils at wing, especially when you consider that left wing is getting very crowded, with Tomas Tatar, Janne Kuokkanen, Miles Wood and one of Pavel Zacha/Jesper Bratt all playing that same position. Unless the Devils plan to shift one of those players to the right side (where they seem to only have the other of Bratt/Zacha and Yegor Sharangovich) or to move Johnsson himself to the right, he has a lot of work to do to get ahead of those other options.
So does Andreas Johnsson make the 2021-22 New Jersey Devils Opening Night Roster? I’m going to say he does, however I think Mike is onto something and he is going to be one of the healthy scratch spots. Unless he is dominant in the preseason, I think the Devils will see a couple of the hungry younger players pushing for the remaining spots. Additionally, I think the Devils are at this point looking to fill Bottom 6 slots, and Johnsson doesn’t really have a lot of the skills that are sought from Bottom 6 players.
If he has a good preseason, and the young players don’t, then we could absolutely see him opening night, perhaps on the right side of the third line. This of course is all predicated on the idea that the Devils do not make any other moves/signings prior to the season starting as well, because that can throw everything into flux. Above all else though, I hope my prediction is wrong. I hope Johnsson acclimates better this season and bounces back to being a roughly 40-45 point player. The Devils still need offense to come in from wherever they can get it, so I’m rooting for Andreas to rediscover some of his old scoring touch.
Do you see Andreas Johnsson on the Devils 2021-22 Opening Night Roster and if so where? Do you think on the ice, or will he be watching the first game as a healthy scratch? Do you see any possibility of him being sent to Utica to begin the season? Are you hoping/believing he will bounce back this season? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!