Marcus Johansson Washington Capitals

Photo credit: Richard Wolowicz

Head coach Bruce Boudreau is not shying away from having Marcus Johansson center Alex Ovechkin on the top line, so it’s time to put the sophomore Swede under the microscope. Specifically, what can fans expect him to produce in his second season?

Last year, without any NHL history to guide us, centers who played more than 20 games at the age of 20 as a rookie told us it’s reasonable to expect Johansson to play 58 games and register 31 points in his first season. Johansson ended up scoring 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points in 69 games.

This time, we will use Johansson’s actual NHL stats to match him with players who had comparable production at the same age and then use the development of those peers to generate a projection for 2011-12. Stats are normalized to the 2010-11 season so they can be compared on a level playing field despite being in different eras.

Although he is frequently compared to Washington’s other Swedish center, Nicklas Backstrom, Johansson’s statistical peer group includes Henrik Sedin, Martin Hanzal, and Nikolai Antropov, among others. As you can see, the group is a pretty close match for Johansson’s rookie season:

At age 20 GP G A< Pts Shots GVT
Johansson 69 13 14 27 102 3.2
Comparable players (era-adjusted) 67 12 15 26 100 2.9

Almost identical down the line, including Puck Prospectus’ goals versus threshold, which is the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed.

Even after a solid rookie season, the peer group shows Johansson will get better in year two. Similar players increased their scoring by 12.5 percent and a third of those doubled their GVT the following year.

GP G A Pts Shots GVT
2011-12 Projection 82 14 23 36 130 4.7

The big difference, of course, could be in Johansson’s linemates. Centering Ovechkin and Alexander Semin can put the young Swede into the upper bracket of his peer group’s production, leading to a more optimistic projection. But even that would be only a slight improvement to his boxcar stats.

GP G A Pts Shots GVT
Optimistic 2011-12 projection based on similar players 82 18 27 45 140 7.6

That projection may look low based on Johansson’s performance in the second half of the season, but even if we take a 40-game moving average of his scoring (playoffs included), he still only maxed out to a 43-point pace over an 82-game season.

After a sluggish start, Johansson began to improve game-by-game and by the All-Star break was showing the poise and talent that justified Washington selecting him in the first round of the 2009 entry draft. However, a breakthrough season seems to be at least another year away.