Fifth Overall Draft Pick Kent Johnson Providing Glimpses Of What's To Come For Columbus Blue Jackets

By Will Chase on December 24, 2021 at 1:45 pm
Kent Johnson plays the puck for the Michigan Wolverines against the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Big 10 Hockey Tournament.
South Bend Tribune-USA TODAY NETWORK
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Kent Johnson is turning heads in college, and now internationally.

Last summer's fifth overall draft pick in the 2021 NHL Draft continues to amaze at the collegiate level for the University of Michigan Wolverines. A gifted young forward billed as a center, the 19-year-old, 6'1" Johnson looks to check a lot of boxes for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Though he's played mostly left wing of late for Michigan, regardless of position, Johnson is one nice Christmas gift for the Blue Jackets.

It's hard to remember many times Blue Jackets fans have had the opportunity as they do now with Johnson to watch a prospect in the organization with constant awe and anticipation. You know he's a player to watch with The Athletic checking in and chronicling his current season with monthly updates.

As mentioned, Johnson is a player that's still only in college—yup, a Wolverine which gives Zach Werenski something in common—and yet, is a player many are excited for. Enamored, really, and for good reason.

In his second collegiate season, Johnson has 23 points (four goals, 19 assists). He had 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 26 games last year, a season that ended prematurely as the university withdrew from the NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.

Right now, Johnson is providing even more of a glimpse of what's to come for an even larger audience.

On Thursday, he had one goal and one assist for Team Canada in their 6-4 win over Team Russia in the World Junior Championships pre-tournament game in Edmonton. Johnson and the rest of Team Canada will play their first tournament game of the World Junior Championships on Sunday versus Team Czech Republic.

Johnson recently overcame a bout with COVID—and he still scored two points Thursday, despite missing three practices with Team Canada—and as he gets back on the ice and caught up to speed following quarantine, he talked about how he was feeling prior to Thursday's exhibition.

"Honestly, the legs weren't too bad, surprisingly," Johnson said. "The lungs, a little bit at the start, like if we were doing really hard drills, but other than that not too bad, like after the first 30 minutes felt better."

These days, as we all know, the quarantine lifestyle isn't too fun, even for big-time hockey prospects as they try to keep up their conditioning.

"I felt good for the last, probably 14, 13 days so I've been able to work out in my room or stickhandle or whatnot but yeah, obviously not too much fun," Johnson said.  

Just like how Cole Sillinger bypassed the AHL altogether and made the team out of camp for the Blue Jackets this season, it feels like a matter of time before Johnson could perhaps do the same once his sophomore season comes to a close in college.

Regardless of how and when that plays out, it shouldn't be too long before Johnson is suiting up alongside Sillinger and the rest of the team for the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in a not-so-distant future.

We'll have to let that all play out how it will in due time, but Johnson is another bright reminder of the young talent the Blue Jackets have in the wings.

Just remember, the Blue Jackets are the youngest team in the league—which comes with growing pains—while simultaneously filling up with big-time talent. That's something to keep in mind as the organization builds out its core, while management and fans anxiously await future dividends in the seasons to come. 

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