One to grow on: Red Wings 'excited' about big potential of draft pick Albert Johansson

By Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Much of the attention last weekend was focused on Moritz Seider and Antti Tuomisto, the Red Wings’ first two draft picks.

It’ll be interesting, several years from now, how those two defensemen compare to the Wings’ last second-round pick, Albert Johansson.

Defenseman Albert Johansson skates around an obstacle during the Red Wings development camp at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

He’s only 6 feet, 168 pounds, so he has plenty of growing to do, and there’s much to Johansson’s game that needs to be polished.

But even at the draft last weekend, Hakan Andersson, the Wings’ director of European scouting, was intrigued with the young Swedish defenseman.

“I’m very excited about his talent,” Andersson said. “There was another scout that told me he thinks he (Johansson) might be the best of them all — and I kind of agree. He’s a great skater and a very good guy with the puck.”

Johansson also has the bloodlines that make him an intriguing prospect.

His father Roger played 161 games in the NHL (Calgary, Chicago), and was a successful player in the Swedish pro league.

“If he grows, it’s going to help his career more, but even right now as a 6-foot kid, he’s a very good hockey player,” Andersson said. “But he has to fill out.”

For Farjestad last season, Johansson had 29 points (five goals, 24 assists) in 40 games. It was a fine season, but it wasn’t the part of his game that impressed Johansson, himself.

“The biggest step last season was my defensive game,” Johansson said after Wednesday’s practice during the Red Wings’ development camp.

When Johansson arrives to North America in a two or three years he knows defense is going to be a crucial part of the game.

He's probably further ahead offensively right now, but with his skating ability, Johansson can skate away from trouble.

“I need to work my defensive game,” said Johansson, who says he believes it will be an adjustment on the North American smaller rink. “Then, work a lot on my offensive game. Here, you have to do things fast.”

Having a dad who played in the NHL — a defenseman, too — doesn’t hurt in terms of advice and understanding what a prospective pro player is going through.

Johansson and his father didn’t discuss the development camp much, after the draft, but Dad did have some advice going forward. Mainly, it was to relax and let the game be enjoyable and not put pressure on himself.

“Just play my game and have fun,” Johansson said. “Enjoy it and go in and work hard. He’s happy for me, I know that.

“It helps me a lot (his dad’s NHL career). We talk a lot about hockey. He knows a lot of hockey and gives me a lot of tips. It’s good for me.”

Andersson was impressed with Johansson watching the young defenseman star in the Swedish junior league.

Johansson didn't shine as much on the national team, but in league play, he was unquestionably one of the elite junior defensemen in the country.

“For some reason it didn’t quite come out when he played on the under-18 national team, but he dominated in junior in Sweden, just dominated,” Andersson said. “He was voted the best defenseman in the junior playoffs in Sweden.

“He’s a talented guy without the size.”

Johansson hopes a growth spurt is coming its way — both of his older brothers are taller, and his dad was 6-foot-3 —  but he knows time in the weight room would be just as beneficial.

“It’s a more physical game on the small rink,” Johansson said. “I need to put on a lot of muscle over the summer.”

Twitter: @tkulfan