Now in Abbotsford, Canucks defenceman Filip Johansson reflects on a huge year of development in Sweden

Photo credit:@erixen on IG
By Faber
1 year ago
A right-shot defence prospect appearing in a Canucks jersey is about as rare as a shiny Chansey in the Safari Zone.
Filip Johansson was a free agent signing last year and played a final season in the SHL before joining Abbotsford in the AHL playoffs. He made his AHL debut in game two of the second round of the playoffs. This is also the second round of a playoff run for Johansson, who went to the second round of the SHL playoffs before losing to Växjö in six games. That SHL series ended on April 10th, and within 10 days, Johansson was in Abbotsford and ready to help contribute to the organization that took a swing on him last summer when they signed the 23-year-old defenceman.
Johansson had a strong 2022-23 SHL season. He finished the year with nine goals and 21 assists through 63 SHL and CHL (Champions League) games.
This kid has a bomb of a shot and moves around the ice pretty well.
Johansson nearly doubled his offensive production from last season and believes that he took a big step in development this season. He was trusted for more minutes and saw plenty of time on the power play and penalty kill for his SHL team Frölunda. The growth in minutes was substantial as he averaged four more minutes of ice time in the 2022-23 season after being a guy who averaged about 16:45 during the 2021-22 season.
Looking back on his SHL season, Johansson believes he made the right choice to stay in Sweden and develop his game before making the jump to North America.
“I think I improved a lot,” said Johansson. “I mean, just having a bigger role in the team, playing big minutes, being more of an important piece on the team and I put up my best numbers so far. For me, it was good to stay one more year to really develop my game and all that. So I think I think was the right decision. It’s important both to play a lot of minutes to develop your game but also to be more responsible. This year, the coaching staff trusted me and it made me be more responsible with my big minutes. I learned that it’s a bit different to play big minutes, you’ve got to save some energy here and there, I learned a lot and it helped me a lot.”
Coming over to North America is important to Johansson, who was a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
“I wouldn’t say it was a hard decision, I really wanted to come to North America,” said Johansson with a big smile. “Playoffs are the most fun part of the season and being able to play more playoff hockey is good, of course. But I’m also coming here now for next year. Learning the organization, coaching staff, and some players while also learning the feel of the smaller rink. There’s some different stuff out here. So, I really wanted to come here. It wasn’t a hard decision for me to come here. Not at all.”
Recently, we’ve had a lot of discourse about development in Europe compared to developing in the AHL, especially now that Abbotsford is just down the road from the big club. Jonathan Lekkerimäki is an example of someone who likely develops in Europe until he’s 20 but Danila Klimovich is an example of a prospect who came right to the AHL after being drafted.
We asked Johansson for his take on developing in Sweden compared to coming to North American and working with the AHL team. Johansson had a chance to come to North America at the beginning of the season but instead elected to play the 2022-23 season in his home country.
“I think you never know if you’re right or wrong when you are deciding on what to do. I think it depends a lot on your situation. If you looked at my situation, I just think that I knew I would have a bigger role in the Frölunda if I stayed. I felt like I really developed over the past two years and honestly, I don’t know what would have happened if I came here before this season but I just knew that if I stayed in the SHL, I’d have a really good chance to keep developing and I was comfortable and knew everything in Sweden. I don’t think there was a right or wrong there but for me, I think it was the best decision. I’ve developed my game a lot, and maybe I would have done it if I’d been here too but you never know. I think it was the right decision.”
Johansson may have only played in one AHL game but he already noticed the ice size being something he will have to adjust for.
“Breaking out the puck with the first pass in your own zone is pretty different,” said Johansson. “You don’t have any time here. You feel like there are guys everywhere. It’s kind of an extreme way for me too. I go from playoffs in Sweden and go right over here and right into the AHL playoffs. So maybe it’s easier at the beginning of the season. I don’t know, I’m just trying to get adjusted while I try to do my best and play the right way or what you say. But yeah, I learned a lot just from my first game here.”
We asked about why he chose to sign with the Canucks as many teams surely were in on the recent first-round pick.
“I feel like the Canucks organization is a great place for me to be after what they told me,” said Johansson. “The Canucks fan base is amazing and to be able to play for them is awesome. A lot of pieces fell into place and it was an easy choice to come to Vancouver and Abbotsford.”
Now, with one game under his belt, Johansson is ready to prepare for next season. His goal is to make the NHL team out of camp but knows that it may require some time in the AHL before he gets into the best league in the world. His willingness to travel to North America after losing out in his SHL playoffs certainly shows his commitment to the organization and he should get a leg up on his competition at training camp next year if he can show something later on in the AHL playoffs.
Johansson also joked with us at the end and said that Canucks prospect Lucas Forsell is going to score “many, many” goals in the SHL next season.
In his AHL debut, Johansson was paired up with Jett Woo. Woo played the left-side but after a tough loss, we may see some changes to the defence corps before Wednesday’s game three.
Head coach Jeremy Colliton added some thoughts on Johansson’s AHL debut.
“[It was his] first game on the small rink and on a big stage and he did well with the puck — he made some plays and had a couple of decent chances on the powerplay,” said Colliton. “Obviously, the second goal against will be a learning experience for him. And I mean, that’s the playoffs. It doesn’t take long for those situations to happen, you have got to be ready all the time and learn from it.”
Johansson continues to learn and prepare for next season but for now, we hope to see more of him in the AHL playoffs and potentially spark some offence for the Canucks as they look to reverse sweep the Calgary Wranglers with three games at home over the next week.

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