• Alex Taxman

Prospect Report: Kent Johnson

As of now, the title of “best prospect in the 2021 class” is up for grabs. In my view, there’s six players who have a chance to challenge for the first overall selection. There’s Aatu Räty, the Finnish man-child with a highly intriguing yet still raw power forward toolkit. Then there’s three defensemen; a trio of transition beasts in Luke Hughes, Carson Lambos and Brandt Clarke, and the gigantic, slick-skating Owen Power to join them.

Rounding out the top five is a tall, scrawny kid from Vancouver named Kent Johnson. At first glance, it seems like the wind could knock him over. But make no mistake, Johnson is one of the most dynamic and lethal scoring threats in recent draft memory. Playing his D-1 season in the BCHL, Johnson scored 41 goals and 60 assists for 101 points in 52 games, leading the entire league in scoring by 30 points. In addition, his 1.94 points per game ranks 2nd in BCHL history among D-1 players, behind only Scott Gomez. Johnson’s 41 goals and 60 assists also topped each category for the season.

His trophy case now holds:

2018-2019 BCHL All-Rookie Team

2019-2020 BCHL Top Scorer Award

2019-2020 BCHL Most Goals Award

2019-2020 BCHL Most Assists Award

2019-2020 BCHL First Team All-Star

2019-2020 BCHL MVP Award

2019-2020 BCHL Most Sportsmanlike Award

I think it’s safe to say he’s *pretty* accomplished for a 17 year old. Johnson was way too good for the BCHL this past season, but he had to play there to maintain his NCAA eligibility. He’s committed to play this season at the University of Michigan, but full plans for an NCAA ice hockey season are yet to be unveiled. For what it’s worth, the Everett Silvertips own Johnson’s rights, so if there isn’t a college hockey season, the WHL is a possibility for him.

This is going to be a strange season for prospect evaluation, especially for Kent. He’s already set to play in a league where he’ll play an absolute maximum of 35-40 games, and it’s likely to be much less than that. This is a total nightmare for players who are depending on this season for exposure, but it’s not for Kent. Last year, he essentially accomplished everything he could. He was unbelievable the entire season, with virtually no lulls, and he was in the middle of a lights-out playoff performance when the season was cancelled. I think I’ve covered all of his accolades to this point, so let’s get to what makes Johnson such a lethal scorer.

Johnson’s skating ability is just above average. His feet are light and quick, but he doesn’t have high-end speed and his stride is pretty awkward. His right leg extends much further back than his left, resulting in a long kick/short kick cycle:

This is something that can be fixed very easily with a good skating coach, which he’ll be provided with by both Michigan and whichever team ends up drafting him. I really don’t expect this to be an issue for him in the future, but it’s something that does need to be addressed. He’s probably never going to be a burner, but that’s not Johnson’s game.

The majority of Johnson’s success comes from his elite deceptiveness. He’s so smart and calculated with the puck, creating offense on every shift. He makes no-look passes with crazy consistency, and always seems to know what the best option is. He’s also elite when it comes to using defenders as screens. He’ll drag the puck towards defenders’ legs right until the goalie can’t see it anymore, then either send a laser to the back of the net:

or a backdoor pass to a teammate for a wide open finish:

His passing game is incredibly polished. He can hit teammates on the tape from nearly anywhere on the ice, and his timing is impeccable. I put together a short reel of some of his best assists from this past season:

He’s a highly skilled shooter and finisher as well. Johnson’s wrist shot is fantastic, and when coupled with his slick hands and high hockey IQ, it makes a dangerous sniper. On the power play, Johnson usually sets up on the left half-wall, and shoots at will. He steps into the circle and generates tons of flex on his stick, giving him more power on his shot. When that shot doesn’t go in (and it usually does), it creates a rebound that his teammates are waiting to jump on. He’s also able to roof the puck from in tight on the backhand, and has a clever breakaway toolkit. Here’s a collection of some of his best goals from the 2019-2020 season:

Oh yeah, and the Michigan commit also pulled off the “Michigan” twice:

Johnson is the type of player who brings fans out of their seats every time he steps on the ice, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do at Michigan. So far, he’s made the best argument for first overall.


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