He’s fast, he’s creative, and he’s incredibly fun to watch. There are many ways to describe Michigan’s Kent Johnson, ranked third among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, but “human highlight reel” might just be the best — not to mention, the most accurate.
Here’s what you need to know about Johnson, a likely top-10 pick at this summer’s NHL draft.
Age: 18 (Oct. 18, 2002)
Position: Centre/Left wing
Current team: University of Michigan (NCAA)
Hometown: North Vancouver, B.C.
Weight: 165 pounds
He’s a ‘highlight reel waiting to happen’
How’s that for a ringing endorsement, courtesy of Sportsnet’s draft specialist Sam Cosentino, who called Johnson a “dynamic offensive player whose confidence allows him to maximize his creativity” in his April rankings.
That might just be the best way to sum up Johnson’s skillset. He’s an artist with the puck, and can scores goals like this:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 9, 2020
A few years ago, he caught the attention of Hockey Twitter with a shootout goal that was both weird and wonderful, giving us a little window into just how creative (and oh so confident) he is:
He’s part of a stacked Michigan class
Johnson, linemate Matty Beniers, and defenceman Owen Power are all slated to be top picks, as is incoming Michgander Luke Hughes, making for a pretty special crew of dynamic draft-eligible players.
We didn’t get to see Johnson, Beniers, and Power do any damage in the NCAA tournament as they were forced to sit out the competition after a series of positive COVID tests.
He’s had success at centre and on on the wing
Between his BCHL days with the Trail Smoke Eaters and his freshman year of college hockey at Michigan, Johnson has had success playing centre and left wing.
He joined the Smoke Eaters as a centreman — his preferred position — in 2018-19 but was slotted in at left wing to let him learn from some team veterans. That patient approach paid off, as his transition back to centre for 2019-20 saw him double his point totals across board, registering a whopping 41 goals and 60 assists for 101 points in 52 games while playing an elite two-way game.
This past year, he again transitioned to the wing in Michigan. There, he scored nine goals and added 18 assists for 27 points — good for second on the team in all categories, and first among all draft-eligible 18-year-old NCAA players in assists and points. Johnson also shone on special teams, leading the team in power-play goals with three.
His defence is just as strong as his offence
When we talk about Johnson, we talk about his creative playmaking and offensive prowess. But his former BCHL coach, Jeff Tambellini, said that’s just half of his portfolio:
“He’s just a really hard guy to contain and that’s a great part of his game but I think what people miss on him is his defensive and takeaway ability,” Tambellini told NHL.com’s Mike Morreale in April. “He strips people with pucks, finds a way to get a stick on a puck and creates a lot of offence off takeaways.
“It’s always great to have offensive guys who are thinking off the puck … how do I get it back, and how do we limit our time defending?”