Yes, it's only the preseason, but Kent Johnson is showing why he was a top-five pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
According to naturalstattrick.com, Johnson leads Blue Jackets forwards in 5v5 xG, 5v5 shots, and 5v5 takeaways. He's yet to register a point at 5v5, but his presence has certainly been felt on the ice. You may be thinking to yourself, "well of course he should be dominating! He's not playing against the other team's top players!" While this is true, if he was ineffective against that same competition, there would likely be sentiments including, "is Johnson a bust? Why isn't he being effective against the lesser competition?" So I think it's only fair that we give him credit for playing at an extremely high level.
#CBJ Gavrikov hits the post after receiving a beautiful saucer pass from Kent Johnson who made the play after spinning away from a defender.— Coby Maeir (@CobyMaeir) September 29, 2022
And like I mentioned in the stats above, he's getting it done on both ends of the ice, which is something you love to see from a young player and especially a player with his potentially elite offensive skillset.
Patrik Laine was effusive in his praise of Kent Johnson postgame after the rookie centered his line with Johnny Gaudreau: We were joking in the intermission that hes running for Calder and Selke this year. He was that good in the D-zone. #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) September 26, 2022
I know that it's early and we don't even know what position Johnson will play this season, let alone what team he'll play for, but his play has to be a bright spot for the Blue Jackets and their fans.
Watching him throughout training camp and in the two preseason games he's played, I think he's been one of, if not the best player on the team so far. He's certainly making his case not only to make the NHL roster out of camp but to play a significant role.