That season, though his point totals weren’t wholly impressive, Johnson displayed excellent two-way play as he centered one of the most effective third lines in all of junior hockey. Peaking at the right time, Johnson’s impressive play in the playoffs not only helped lead the team to the WHL Championship, but also earned him the league’s playoff MVP award, making him the first 17 year old to win the award since Dan Blackburn in 2001. Johnson’s line also proved pivotal in the Memorial Cup Tournament, as they were tasked with not only providing offense, but also shutting down the oppositions’ top scoring lines in each and every game.
The following year, Johnson proved to be a capable offensive player in the league, as his 61 points were good enough for third on the team, as well as showcasing an impressive +26 rating. Continuing to improve upon his impressive resume, in 2009-10, Johnson would again finish third on the Chiefs in scoring, this time with 71 points in 64 games. When Team USA came calling for the World Junior Championships, he once again was given the opportunity to step his game up to another level – and again he did not disappoint, as he would bring his blazing speed and effective two-way play to the tournament and help aide the Americans to their first Gold medal since the 2004 tournament.
As an overager in 2010-11, Tyler Johnson absolutely exploded offensively, and in what was expected by many to be a down year for the Chiefs, Johnson would finish with a very impressive 115 points in 71 games, good enough for second in the WHL. His dominant play was enough to earn him a professional contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and again proved his ability to step his game up when it matters the most.
An eye opening season as a rookie in the AHL might actually be an understatement. Joining former Memorial Cup teammate Dustin Tokarski and the Norfolk Admirals, Johnson finished third on the team in scoring with 31 goals and 68 points in 75 regular season games, before adding 14 points in 14 playoff games en route to a Calder Cup.
With blazing speed, excellent vision, a great two-way game, and a willingness to battle for every inch of space on the ice, the tenacious forward still has to be considered a longshot to make the opening day roster for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Listed generously at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, Johnson has however proved most everyone wrong at every level he’s played. There aren’t many weaknesses in his game other than his size, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the organization which has showcased Martin St Louis for 11 seasons is giving him a shot. Heading into next season, look for Johnson to continue to hone his offensive skills in the AHL, as he may wind up being one of the top offensive players in the league. At this point, Tyler Johnson certainly projects as a potential middle-six forward in the NHL.
On a personal note, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see him suit up for the Lightning in the 2012-13 season. He’s an electrifying player that does not quit on any play, and is the type of guy that coaches love to have on the bench for every situation. Not originally from Spokane, I have no bias either way towards Tyler. I think his resume speaks for itself at every level, and I felt he should get some of the recognition he has earned, but to this point doesn’t seem to be getting. Keep an eye on this guy – especially if you haven’t seen him yet, it’s a real treat to watch him play.
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