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21 Days of 2021 NHL Draft Prospects: #2 — Kent Johnson

Nobody had a more offensively productive D-1 year than this guy.

Damon James - Garrett James Photography
Kent Johnson Fast Stats 2019-20
Lauren Kelly

From stylistic comparisons to Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner, to production comparisons of Colorado Avalanche recent first rounder Alex Newhook, there absolutely is no denying that Kent Johnson is ridiculously good at hockey.

Johnson’s junior-A rookie season numbers were excellent, with 46 points in 57 games. He was a point-per-game player during the 2018 playoffs and there were definitely high expectations for him coming into this season.

He flat-out obliterated them.

Johnson broke the 100-point plateau and finished the season producing at nearly two points per game. He recorded 14 powerplay goals and another shorthanded. Eight of his goals were game-winners and Johnson played had three or more points in 15 games this season (seven games where he scored four or more points).

His offensive production drew comparisons to Newhook as a result. Newhook also broke the 100-point mark in the BCHL in his draft year before being drafted by the Avs and heading off for further development in the NCAA.

Though Newhook had a full and deep playoff run to add to his season’s totals, Johnson’s playoffs were cut short due to the pandemic. Trail, who was likely poised for an equally long playoff run, played just four postseason games, but Johnson did pick up seven points in that span.

Johnson’s late-2002 birthdate pushes his NHL draft eligibility to 2021, which means he will spend his draft year playing NCAA hockey at the University of Michigan next season (like what projected 2020-first rounder Dylan Holloway did this season at Wisconsin). Johnson’s older brother Kyle also took the college route, playing in the ECAC with Yale.

The Marner comparisons are drawn from Johnson’s ridiculously sublime puck control and crafty hands. Johnson’s instincts and ability to process the game are at a much higher level than a lot of his peers in the draft class. He sees opportunities that the majority of players do not, and he has the skill to capitalize. Johnson is a threat to score with or without the puck and can fool defenders with his shiftiness.

Johnson’s skating is excellent; his stride is quick and agile, and he can separate himself from opponents on the rush. It is also very fluid, and Johnson’s edges allow him to change directions quickly and spin off checking opponents to avoid contact in high traffic. He might benefit from a little bit more explosiveness in his first few steps, but by no means will it hold Johnson back at the next levels.

Though more of a playmaker than a sniper, Johnson is unafraid to take the puck to the net and can use his backhand or something more (evilly) creative like The Michigan (see the highlights below) to beat goalies. He also uses his hands and edges to find teammates with spinorama passes. The hallmark of Johnson’s game is his crafty and deceptive puck control. Defenders and goalies struggle to read Johnson and as a confident puck handler, Johnson is incredibly hard to predict.

As a multifaceted center who can play both special teams, it remains to be seen exactly where Johnson will slot into the Wolverines lineup this fall — and if he is deployed down the middle. Though definitely not undersized, Johnson will need to put on some weight as he prepares for older and stronger opponents next season to be a consistently dominant and dangerous producer in college hockey.

Strengths: Vision, Hands, Offense

To Improve: Strength, Adapting to NCAA

Quotables

Kent Johnson has torn up the BCHL for two years now, finishing last season with 101 points in just 52 games. While the BCHL is a junior A league and not quite as good as the WHL, his numbers in his draft-1 year are comparable to Alex Newhook’s draft year (103 points in 53 games). Next season Johnson will be taking his talents to Ann Arbor to help revive the University of Michigan’s hockey program after a down year. Johnson is consistently the smartest player on the ice and his skill is off the charts. He should step right into the Wolverines’ lineup in the fall and be an offensive catalyst. [Dobber Prospects]

As you’d expect from the gaudy stats, Johnson is a smooth, skilled offensive player with great hands and a nice shot... The closest comparison to Johnson in terms of BCHL prospects is probably Kyle Turris, who tallied 121 points in 53 games in his final year in the BCHL. That was Turris’ draft year, while Johnson is in his Draft-1 year, though Johnson is only two months younger than Turris was at the time. [SBN College Hockey]

Michigans

Other Highlights

Statistics from Elite Prospects and the British Columbia Hockey League.