Blue Jackets Forward Kent Johnson's Current Rough Patch Shouldn't Prevent Pascal Vincent From Playing Him

By Coby Maeir on February 20, 2024 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kent Johnson (91) handles the puck against the Vancouver Canucks in the first period at Rogers Arena.
© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Kent Johnson has been struggling lately, and that's okay. He's a 21-year-old player who has played 125 NHL games across three seasons since being selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. 

Kent Johnson's Pro Stats (via Regular Season More -> Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts   PIM
2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL 9 0 3 3 2 2 -- -- -- -- --  
2022-23 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL 79 16 24 40 14 -19 -- -- -- -- --  
2023-24 Cleveland Monsters* AHL 10 5 10 15 0 5            
2023-24 Columbus Blue Jackets NHL 37 6 10 16 8 2            
  NHL Totals   125 22 37 59 24              

Johnson, who has posted just three assists in his last 14 games, played a career-low 6:57 in Saturday's 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks after he got caught behind the play and was late on a backcheck leading to Anthony Duclair's second goal of the game. 

In the clip above, it appears that Johnson had his eyes on the puck on the other side of the zone and lost track of Duclair, who likely became his responsibility once Ivan Provorov pinched up on the left side, which left Johnson as the furthest player back on the right side with Damon Severson taking Provorov's spot.

After that goal, Johnson sat on the bench for the final 12:27 of the second period and played just 2:48 over five shifts in the third period. 

For a team that is not in playoff contention and should be focused on developing its young players, this is completely unacceptable. As the chart below shows, Johnson has been at his best this season when playing around 14 minutes per game, as he posted 5-7--12 in 20 games while playing 14:14 a night. 

Kent Johnson's 23-24 Splits In The NHL
Game # Goals Assists Points Shots Avg TOI +/- Avg. Game Score (Via
1-10 1 2 3 15 12:39 -3 -0.20
11-20 3 5 8 15 13:59 +2 1.27
21-30 2 2 4 15 14:28 +3 0.48
31-37 0 1 1 8 13:11 Even 0.03

As he's displayed many times before, Johnson is an incredibly skilled player. What do incredibly skilled young players do sometimes? Make mistakes. Isn't that what development is all about though? Making mistakes and learning from them? It's hard to do that when stapled to the bench. What else do young skilled players have in common? They leave a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the puck. That hasn't been the case for Johnson, at least analytically.

Additionally, his 0.29 average game score over the last 17 games is around the middle of the pack as is his season average games score of 0.42. For reference, Connor McDavid has the league's best average game score at 2.10. So even though Johnson has posted just 2-3--5 in his last 17 games, he's been able to contribute in other ways and hasn't been a detriment to the team even when he's been kept off the scoresheet. 

Additionally, with all 16 of his points this season coming at even strength and 15 of them coming at five-on-five, Johnson is posting 2.22 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, per That is tied for 71st among players with at least 400 five-on-five minutes, which doesn't seem like much, but he has more five-on-five points per 60 minutes than William Nylander, Matthew Tkachuk, Sebastian Aho, Mikko Rantanen, Kirill Kaprizov, Jack Hughes, and others. 

Sure, he's struggling to score right now, but he's shown too much in the past to not let him play through this stretch.

At this point of the season, winning games is not important for the Blue Jackets. Developing their young players like Johnson should be of the utmost importance.

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