As part of our summer countdown series, CSNwashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley breaks down his Top 25 impact players for the Washington Capitals' upcoming 2014-15 season.
No. 14: Marcus Johansson, Center
2014-15 NHL Salary: $2.175 million [$2 million cap hit]
2013-14 stats: 80 games, 8 goals, 36 assists, 44 points, minus-21, 4 penalty minutes, 17:32 ice time
Projected 2014-15 stats: 78 games, 13 goals, 28 assists, 41 points, plus-4, 8 penalty minutes, 15:28 average ice time
Analysis: There are two ways this season can go for Johansson, who is entering the final year of a two-year, $4 million contract. He can have a long-awaited breakout season and cash in with a lucrative extension with the Capitals [he is a restricted free agent after this season], or he can remain stagnant and force general manager Brian MacLellan into a difficult decision at the 2015 trade deadline. Since seeing him record a career-high 14 goals and 46 points in 2011-12, fans have been waiting for Johansson to take that next step into being a reliable offensive contributor who can consistently put up 60-point seasons. He has the physical tools to make it happen with blinding speed to the outside and excellent vision, but despite averaging a career-high 17:32 of ice time last season Johansson managed just two even-strength goals and eight goals overall on 107 shots. His 7.5 percent shooting percentage ranked 14th among Caps forwards. That will need to dramatically change if Johansson hopes to be an impact forward with the Caps this season. Essentially, coach Barry Trotz is allowing Johansson and rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov to battle it out for the job of second-line center. If Kuznetsov wins that battle, Johansson could see himself as the Caps’ third-line center between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward, which would dramatically improve Johansson’s plus-minus ratio but could hurt his offensive numbers. Johansson was among the least penalized forwards in the NHL last season [he took just two minors] and drew a team-high 15 penalties. Consequently, 21 of his 44 points came on the power play, where he remains a very effective playmaker. However, that also means Johansson managed just two goals and 21 assists at even strength last season, not good enough for a top-six forward. Johansson has all the tools to be an impact player in Trotz’s puck possession system but he’ll need to take a big step forward to make it happen.