Wild prospect Filip Johansson on being a first-round pick and the haters that followed

Published 7:39 am Thursday, June 27, 2019

By Dane Mizutani

Pioneer Press

There was a time not long ago when Wild prospect Filip Johansson would gladly scroll Twitter searching for what people were saying about him.

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As an 18-year-old blue liner, before the NHL draft, most of the comments were glowing, saying Johansson, though very inexperienced, undoubtedly could make an impact at the next level.

“It was good to read everything,” he said. “You just feel good.”

That changed once the Wild made Johansson, 19, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound defenseman from Sweden, their surprising first-round pick in the 2018 draft, chosen No. 24 overall. Suddenly, he had to deal with the weight of expectations, as well as the haters who insisted he shouldn’t have been such a high top.

It’s ironic because the best day of his life opened the door for more criticism than he ever could have imagined.

“You don’t play that good and it starts to go the other way,” Johansson said. “I’ve learned I should only listen to the coaches and the close people around me.”

That means Johansson avoids certain parts of Twitters nowadays, especially his mentions, while focusing his energy on proving Wild general manager Paul Fenton was right to believe in him. He has had a chance to show off at Wild development camp with a good chunk of the front office watching from the perch about TRIA Rink, and he has flashed his talents as a skilled puck-mover on the back end.

“He looks much better here than he did last season,” Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir said. “He’s a very capable player. He’s one of the best puck-movers, first-pass puck-movers, that we’ve had in our organization that we’ve drafted. That’s his gift.”

Perhaps the biggest thing for Johansson is believing that assessment as he continues his climb up the ladder. He is incredibly hard on himself and knows that he was “pretty bad” last season playing for Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League. He referenced his underwhelming stat line — one goal and three assists in 47 games — and is well aware that he didn’t do much to inspire confidence.

“I had some good games, and I had some bad games,” he said. “That’s not how I want to play. I want to be a guy coach can trust every night, so that’s one of the things I tried to work on.”

Admittedly, Johansson knows that would be easier if he wasn’t so critical of himself. He has tendency to take the fun out of the game with how he stresses over the small stuff.

“I think the hardest thing for me is my own expectations because I want more from myself than anyone,” Johansson said. “ Sometimes it’s OK to be happy about how I play and stuff. There’s not a lot of times I think like that. I know I need to work on that.”

That’s something Johansson plans to make a more concerted effort about when he returns next season to Leksands IF, which recently earned a promotion to the top tier of the Swedish Hockey League. That increased competition, coupled with the fact that he recently finished up what would be the equivalent of high school in the United States, should help next season as he works to prove the haters wrong