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2013 NHL Draft Prospect: Luke Johnson

A look at North Dakota recruit Luke Johnson.

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos

The NHL Draft can be a fickle thing. If Luke Johnson had been born just four days earlier, he would have been eligible for the 2012 draft, and likely would have gone in the top three rounds of the draft. Instead, Johnson had to wait a year to be selected and the last 330-odd days have not been kind to Johnson or his draft stock. After starting the year as an 'A' ranked prospect by Central Scouting, he slipped to 78th among North American skaters in the mid-term rankings, and slipped again to 96th in the final rankings.

So what has happened to Johnson? The truth is, Johnson was a player that seemed destined to slip a bit this season. in 2011-2012, he put up a remarkable 55 points in 55 games for the Lincoln Stars, making him one of the very few 2013 Draft prospects to average a point per game in Tier I Junior A hockey that year. But those numbers may have been inflated a bit because Johnson had the luxury of playing alongside Kevin Roy, who became the first USHL player in nine years to score over 50 goals in a season. With Roy heading to Northeastern University this past season, the Stars' offense didn't necessarily suffer--they actually scored three more goals this past year than the previous year--but they became a much more balanced team, with nobody reaching the 30-goal mark. Johnson could have performed as well or better than he did last year and still not looked as good. As it was, Johnson finished this past season with 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points over 57 games, though he started and ended the season really struggling to put up points.

This past season was probably more indicative of Johnson's abilities though. He's an excellent skater that is very strong on his skates and tough to knock off the puck, and he's got a pretty heavy shot, with a smooth release. He's not huge, but at a solid 5'11" 180 lbs., size isn't going to be a huge issue for him, and he can play a good, responsible two-way game. He's also pretty strong in the face-off circle, and comes from good hockey bloodlines, with both his father and uncle being excellent coaches at the junior/NCAA level. But at the same time, he doesn't quite have the offensive playmaking skills that suggest he'll be a serious scoring threat at the pro level.

That combination of abilities suggests a player that is a pretty safe pick, but one without much of the coveted 'upside' that teams are looking for in a top round draft pick. It would not be a surprise to see Johnson slip into the 5th round or later in the draft, but with a few years of seasoning at the University of North Dakota, he could develop into a player that at worst, provides some good organizational depth, and at best, is a solid two-way contributor on a third or fourth line for a very good NHL team.