Toronto Maple Leafs and the Incredible True Story of Andreas Johnsson

From a 7th round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs to a second-line winger, Andreas Johnsson’s career has been everything but ordinary.

From a young age, the Toronto Maple Leafs winger was a special talent in Sweden. He rose through the ranks of junior Swedish hockey playing for the notable Frölunda HC.

He started off playing professional hockey in the Swedish Elite League at a bright young age of 18. Johnsson was selected in the 7th round, 202nd overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

As a seventh rounder, making the NHL is an extreme longshot, and yet Andreas Johnson not only made the NHL, but became an impact player.

Draft Year

In his draft year, Johnsson did have some struggles which led to the future NHLer falling to the seventh round. All the way up to his draft year, in all leagues, he was an elite talent in Sweden.

But in his draft year, scouts started to wonder if he was a little unmotivated and lacked the drive while on the ice. Little did everyone know, the kid was playing with undiagnosed asthma the entire time! If you or anyone you know has asthma, you know it can physically affect you brutally.

Despite playing through this unknowingly, Johnsson still was able to tally 54 points in 42 games with Frölunda HC’s U20 team of the SuperElit League. Johnsson would also go on to play 7 games for Frölunda HC in the Elitserian league (soon to be SHL) and tally a single goal.

What Came After

After Johnsson’s struggles in his draft year, he exploded. 24 points (15 g – 9 a) in 44 games for Frölunda. He also went on to represent Sweden at the WJC in 2014 and record 6 points (3 g – 3 a) in 7 games while assisting his team in capturing a silver medal.

That year Johnsson would top off the start to his professional career with several accolades: (via eliteprospects.com)

  • SHL Most Points by Junior (24)
  • SHL Rookie of the Year

The next two years the Gävle native would continue to thrive in the SHL and the Champions Hockey league, registering 35 points in 55 games in 2015 in the SHL and then leading the Champions Hockey League tournament in goals (11) and plus/minus (+12).  Then following that up with 44 points in 52 games in the SHL in 2016, good enough for second in team scoring that year. He would cap off that year in Sweden by helping Frölunda capture its first SHL championship in 11 years.

In addition to that, he lead his team to capture a Champions Hockey League championship. It was quite evident that Johnsson was rising to be one of the  Toronto Maple Leafs top prospects.

Coming to North America and the Marlies

Prior to the start of 2015-16 in the SHL, Johnsson signed his entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in hope that he would be making the jump over to North American ice soon. At the end of that season, that’s just what he did.

Johnsson joined the Toronto Marlies for 2 games in the playoffs, and did not record a point.  Unfortunately in game 2 Johnsson was on the wrong end of a brutal hit from Albany Devils defenseman Dan Kelly and was diagnosed with a concussion. Kelly was issued a 10-game suspension for the hit and Johnsson would not see the ice again for the Marlies that season.

The next year Johnsson came back healthy and hungry for success in the AHL with the Marlies. Johnsson would come out flying notching 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points, good enough for third in Marlie scoring- not bad for his AHL rookie campaign.

The following year was wear Johnsson would really shine. In 54 games, he would stuff the stat sheet for 54 points (26 g – 28 a) before being called up to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Up in the big show, he would play 9 games that year and tally 3 points (2 g – 1 a). Once he was called up it was apparent to the league that this kid was fast and hungry. You couldn’t leave a puck sitting there for too long, or he might take it.

Following the Leafs exit to the Boston Bruins in the playoffs that year, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent Johnsson back down to the AHL to help the Marlies with their Playoff Run. However once returning, he did a little more than help. Here’s just a look at the accolades Johnsson accomplished to finish that year:

  • AHL Calder Cup Champion
  • AHL Playoffs Most Assists (14)
  • AHL Playoffs Most Points (24)
  • AHL Playoffs MVP (Jack A. Butterfield Trophy)
  • AHL Second All-Star Team

There was no doubt that the Super-Swede was the Marlies hero that playoff run and was quintessential in the championship.

The Big Leagues

After the dream season for Johnsson, it was time to move onto the big leagues for good and start making a major impact with the NHL club, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Even with his success in the AHL, he still had to succeed in the NHL. To do this, on July 13, 2018, Dubas and Co. signed Johnsson to a one-year $787 500 contract. He had this year to show the Toronto Maple Leafs what he could do.

Throughout that 2018-19 season, he would slide up and down the lineup and eventually find a spot on the left side of Auston Matthews and William Nylander. That season Johnsson had a total of 20 goals and 23 assists for a total of 43 points in 73 games while only averaging 13:40 TOI.

His shot percentage was at an impressive 15.4% and 37 of his 43 points were at even strength. His performance that season was good enough for 8th in Calder Trophy voting. (all stats: hockey-reference.com) Not too bad of a rookie season for a former 7th round draft pick.

This great season was rewarded by the Leafs signing Johnsson to a 4-year, $13.6 million contract ($3.4 million AAV) – well deserved. In the final year of the contract, Johnsson also has a modified-no-trade-clause (capfriendly.com).

Early in his career with the Marlies, it seemed that Johnsson had trouble staying off the PIM sheet, but in later years that seems to have been put to rest.

In his past two seasons with the Leafs, he has a total of 46 PIMs in 116 games. That seems to be a much better pace than the 53 PIMs in 54 games in the AHL that 2017-18 season.

This past season, the 2019-20 season, Johnsson started off the season pretty steadily until he was hit with the injury bug – once in December, and then yet again in February.

The injury in February would subsequently end his regular season before returning for the final game of the play-in vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. In his final game, Johnsson seemed to a bit off of the ball at times.

He had a few shifts where he seemed disengaged in play and at times he was not the same Johnsson we came to know and love. A valid reason for this being that this was the winger’s first game in nearly 6 months. It was a questionable decision from Keefe to have Johnsson’s first game back, be such a big one. However, it’s in the past and nothing can change what happened in that game.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Their Super Swedes

Mats Sundin. Borje Salming. Alex Steen. William Nylander. Rasmus Sandin. Carl Gunnarsson. There is an abundance of high-level players who have come from the blue and yellow. Andreas Johnsson is just another player in a long line of Swedish talent that has come to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hopefully, it stays that way and Johnsson continues to succeed and make his Swedish brothers proud.

Johnsson has definitely been a journeyman. From a 7th rounder who “seemed to lack the determination and drive that others possessed” to a multi-league champion with a slew of awards and big goals, it seems he’s going to experience it all.

Only time will tell. Be sure that Johnsson will come to the start of the next season hungrier than ever and don’t be surprised if he again continues to push new feats.