Whatever "it" is, Kent Johnson has it.
Johnson has played in just 38 games and posted 8-11--19, with 8-8--16 being in 29 games this season. He's third among NHL rookies in goals and has played at least two fewer minutes per game than the two players ahead of him. Among rookies with at least 300 minutes of five-on-five TOI, he's fourth in points/60, per naturalstattrick.com.
While starting the season as a winger playing mostly bottom-six minutes, Johnson has moved up to the top-line center between Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine over the past two games due to the absence of Boone Jenner. In those games, Johnson has flourished, scoring two goals.
Take a look at the goal he scored Tuesday night, for example. He's skating up the ice on a two-on-one with Laine, who's got one of the best shots in the league, but Johnson sees that Ivan Provorov is taking away the passing lane, so he waits and fires a perfectly placed wrist shot past Carter Hart.
#CBJ Johnson (8) goal pic.twitter.com/S8vHhnumOO— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) December 21, 2022
For not being known for his defense, Johnson has certainly been decent on that side of the puck, coming up with 11 five-on-five takeaways compared to 11 five-on-five giveaways. If those numbers stay close to even, they're in a good spot.
Now I can continue to feed you stats, but that's not the point. It's hard to quantify but he's just one of those players that are so smart on the ice. It's almost like the puck finds him no matter what. Sometimes a player just has a knack for being at the right place at the right time, and Johnson has that.
#CBJ Johnson (7) goal pic.twitter.com/TqO8BcoYNE— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) December 20, 2022
There's also the confidence that he plays with. He's tried "The Michigan" lacrosse-style goal in-game before, and he just has a certain poise when carrying the puck that's hard to quantify.
The Blue Jackets drafted him fifth overall in 2021, and with that comes high expectations. So far, he's proven why he was drafted so high.
I'm trying not to overreact here because again, he's only 20 years old and has played less than 40 NHL games, but there's something special about him. It also helps that he is an extremely hard worker, almost always being the last player off the ice at practices and morning skates. You can tell he loves hockey and loves being at the rink.
#CBJ Johnson (5) goal pic.twitter.com/xYGaYhHYMm— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) November 26, 2022
Right now, times are tough in Columbus. But Johnson is one of the pillars of this rebuild and he's shown that he can be a difference-making player for this team in the future.