Lucas Johansen has two goals: Add weight and find a spot on the Capitals’ blue line. Johansen, the team’s first-round draft pick (No. 28 overall) in last year’s NHL draft, is trying to position himself to fill one of the recent vacancies on the Washington Capitals‘ defense.
With Nate Schmidt being taken by Vegas in the expansion draft and Karl Alzner expected to depart via free agency, the Capitals could be left with internal options to fill their roles.
Prospects Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos and Tyler Lewington are the front-runners to fill those holes in training camp, but Johansen hopes to put himself in the mix, one chicken breast at a time.
“I wake up and I’ll have lots of proteins and carbs before my workout in the morning and then right after my workout I’ll have two chicken breasts and a potato,” Johansen said following development camp Tuesday. “Two hours later I’ll have the same thing again, but with a salad or some sort of greens and then two hours later I’ll have the same thing again. I’ll mix it up with chicken, steak or fish, but pretty much every two hours I’m eating something along those lines. It’s pretty crazy but it’s all worth it for sure. Commit yourself to getting better.
“I was force feeding myself sometimes, but I knew it was worth it.”
With chicken breasts as his go-to, the 19-year-old is working on improving his strength and physicality, putting on 10 pounds in the past month and bulking up to 188 on his 6-foot-1 frame.
“I really had to focus on my eating and what things worked for me and what things don’t and it’s exciting,” Johansen said. “Especially when you find things that click and you feel great going on the ice and stuff like that.”
Johansen, known as a smooth skater, is projected to play for Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey next season after playing three years for his Canadian junior team, the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
Johansen has scored 98 points (17 goals and 81 assists) in 202 games with the Rockets. As a co-captain in 2016-17, Johansen had 41 points (six goals and 35 assists) in 68 games and added eight points in 17 playoff games. Johansen said he “dramatically” improved his defensive play, but his offensive numbers weren’t where he wanted them.
Hershey Coach Troy Mann said he thought Johansen has done “probably everything he can at the WHL level” and is ready for the AHL. Johansen has even higher ambitions.
“It’s exciting,” said Johansen, who was signed to a three-year entry-level deal in March. “There is never too many spots open like this in the NHL and I guess we could in a way thank the expansion draft for that. The young guys here, it’s an exciting opportunity and I think everyone in this room, including myself is looking forward to the challenge. …
“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to play here, but I know I have a lot of things to improve on.”
Johansen said he will turn to his brother, Ryan Johansen, a center with the Nashville Predators, if he needs advice, but Ryan often wants his little brother to figure things out on his own.
Ryan sustained a left thigh injury on May 18, in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against Anaheim and required emergency surgery to treat what was later determined to be acute compartment syndrome. Lucas wasn’t able to see Ryan play in person during the playoffs because he was flying to Nashville when the injury occurred.
“Everyone was a little upset, but you got to be there for him and it was good timing,” Lucas said. “I got to see him in the hospital when he was there. It would have been nice to see him play against Anaheim there, and then against Pittsburgh, but things happen for a reason.”
Though Ryan was out of the lineup, Lucas was in Bridgestone Arena for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, when the Predators clinched their first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. It motivated him to keep eating chicken breasts.
“I had goose bumps when I first walked into the arena and they were coming onto the ice and just how bad I want to play in this league,” Johansen said. “It’s definitely exciting to see, even though Ryan wasn’t out there at the time, but I would have been pretty proud of him if he was out there and I was pretty proud of him this whole season and the playoffs, so it was cool.”