Players who have made the leap

Johansen among young NHL regulars that have made big strides

Updated: February 4, 2014, 1:55 PM ET
By Ryan Wagman | Hockey Prospectus

Ryan JohansenKirk Irwin/Getty ImagesThe light has turned on for Ryan Johansen this season, with 43 points in 56 games.

With the 2013-14 season more than half over and the Olympic break nearly upon us, most players who have had hot starts have begun to cool off and regress to their historical levels. Most, but not all. There are still a few players out there who have maintained a heightened level of production and may now be said to have taken "the leap."

While by no means exclusive, the following All-Star roster represents young veterans (less than 500 career games played prior to this season -- sorry, Alexander Steen) who have maintained a level of play far above anything they have achieved before.

Note: All stats are through Feb. 3, and this roster will not discriminate between specific wing position or handedness among defensemen. Each player is listed with traditional stats, as well as his Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), Hockey Prospectus' proprietary metric measuring value against a replacement-level player.


Johansen

Center: Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
56 games, 23 goals, 20 assists, 43 points, +9.3 GVT

Four years after he was selected with the No. 4 overall choice of the 2010 draft, and in his third season in the NHL, Johansen is beginning to justify the faith placed in him by former Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson.

His first two NHL seasons were disappointing, as Johansen could muster only 33 points in 107 games, while barely breaking even per GVT, with a combined 0.1 over that span. To his credit, the youngster was not protected, particularly in his sophomore campaign, often starting in the defensive zone and against strong competition. Despite his usage, he had reasonable possession numbers. In fact, his puck luck had also been neutral over those first two seasons, with his PDO (measuring the combined shooting and save percentages while he was on the ice at even strength, with 1000 being average) falling close enough to average each time that it could not be used as an excuse.

All of that being the case, a closer look shows that the PDO was buoyed throughout by outstanding save percentages (.922 both seasons) which served to mask poor on-ice shooting percentages. This season, his PDO has not budged, but its makeup has reversed: The Jackets' on-ice save percentage with their young center on ice has dropped to .906, while their shooting percentage has leapt to 9.3 percent, mostly on the strength of his personal shooting percentage of 14.7 percent, which is nearly double his rate from before this season of 7.7 percent.

Johansen shot a blistering 17.9 percent in his lone AHL foray, suggesting that the talent is there for the big pivot to entrench himself as a top-line producer for seasons to come.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs