Kenny Johnson is the younger brother of Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson, which means comparisons between the two are almost inevitable. Kenny certainly isn't Jack, a prodigy from a young age that was selected third overall in the Draft and has had a long NHL career. But there are also some definite similarities between the two, especially when it comes to their physical abilities and aggressive, frequently reckless style of play. Those similarities just might lead a team to select in this year's Draft.
Player: Kenny Johnson
Team: Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep
Height: 6'3" Weight: 214 lbs.
Stats: 44 games, 7 goals, 23 assists, 30 points
Final NHL Central Scouting rank: 117th among North American skaters
What I Like:
-Strong, athletic frame
Johnson already has a pro-sized frame at a legit 6'3" 214 lbs. Overall, he's a pretty good skater too. He has a strong stride and while he doesn't have great straight line speed, he moves laterally very well for a player his size. His combination of size and skating allows him to cover a lot of ice defensively and makes him very difficult to beat one-on-one.
-Aggressive style of play
Johnson is a very physical player that loves to initiate contact. He finishes every check and is going to battle up to, if not past, every whistle. The other team has to account for his presence when he's on the ice and he can get under the skin of opponents and take them off their game.
What I Don't Like:
The downside to Johnson's physical play is that he frequently gets himself into trouble by crossing the line with his aggression. He can take himself out of position by searching for a big hit and takes a lot of bad, unnecessary penalties. Some people say defensive defensemen are at their best when they're unnoticeable; Johnson, for better or worse, is frequently noticeable.
-Lacks offensive creativity
Johnson wasn't blessed with the same offensive abilities of his older brother. He's more of a stay-at-home defenseman who makes a strong first pass to start the rush rather than creating offense on his own. He can get himself into trouble with turnovers when he tries to overhandle the puck. Generally, the quicker he can get rid of the puck, the better.
I mean, it kind of has to be mentioned, right?
I have Johnson ranked low enough that if I was drafting, I'd pass on him completely. I just don't see the hockey sense to play at the next level. But I also recognize that somebody is likely to select him. His size, athleticism and bloodlines are enough that somebody is going to take a late-round flier on him, and, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, with this being a weak draft, the late rounds start early this year. If somebody really falls in love with his physical tools and thinks they can coach up the rest of his game, I could see him going in the third or fourth round, though falling back to the sixth or seventh round seems more likely.
Johnson is expected to play at least one year of junior hockey before following his older brother's footsteps by playing for the University of Michigan. Michigan's track record of developing raw defensive prospects has been iffy at best in recent years, but if Johnson can calibrate his aggression to the point where it's an asset and not a liability, he has potential as a second or third pairing defensive defenseman at the NHL level, though it's a bit of a longshot that he actually reaches that potential