Published On: Wed, Mar 14th, 2018

Andreas Johnsson prepares for his first NHL game

When rookie Andreas Johnsson plays his first NHL game tonight, he’l be the third member of the Leafs 2013 draft to make the NHL.

It’s a particularly weak draft class for the Leafs, who had five picks that round. First-round pick Frederik Gauthier has played 37 games, and seems destined for fourth-line duty. Third-round pick Carter Verhaege is now in the Tampa organization. Fifth-round pick Fabrice Herzog is in the Swiss league. Sixth-round pick Antoine Bibeau played two games for the Leafs in 2016-17 and is now in the San Jose organization.

It won’t take much for Johnsson, a seventh-rounder, to prove himself the cream of that crop.

DREAMS COME TRUE: Mike Babcock promised to have a little fun at Johnsson’s expense, something that might help with the nerves. What was he going to say to the rookie? “Nothing I’m going to tell you guys,” said Babcock. “We’ll have a few laughs with him today to say the least. But get out there and enjoy it. You spend your whole life dreaming of it. Dreams do come true if you work hard enough.”

SPELLING CRISIS: Do I tell my spellcheck that “Johnsson” (two ss) is correct? And then risk having every Johnson, Johnston, etc. possibly switch on me?

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GETTING READY: Johnsson says he’s ready for his first NHL game. “The closer we get to the game, the more it will feel like a reality,” said Johnsson. “It’s going to be an energy rush, and a lot of emotions, and I’m going to have to handle that in a good way.”

NOT ALONE: No family have made it over from Sweden. He says they’ll watch from home. He has plenty of company the Maple Leafs dressing room. No fewer than six of his teammates played their first NHL game within the last two years, so they know what nerves he’s facing. “I remember my first game, a couple of years ago, something you’ll never forget, an amazing experience,” said winger Connor Brown. “You work so hard to put it all together and live out his dream. It’s exciting. Not only to jump into the lineup, but come to a group that’s looking peak come playoff time. He’ll be a nice addition.”

NOTES: Travis Dermott is healthy and ready to go, so Calle Rosen was returned to the Marlies. “Just a little bit of a head cold, nothing more than that,” said Dermott. “Just wanted to take some precautions and sleep 23 of the 24 hours of the day and get it out of my system. All good now. A few sniffles.” … Nikita Zaitsev remains out with the flu.

G Freddie Andersen (33-18-5, 2.76, .919) to start vs Dallas G Kari Lehtonen (12-9-2, 2.31, .918)

Defence pairings:







Van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Brown


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Andreas Johnsson prepares for his first NHL game