Luke Johnson is starting to find some traction.
It’s been a mixed season so far for the highly-touted Grand Forks, N.D. native and his Lincoln Stars.
Expectations were high after Johnson potted 20 goals as a rookie in `11-12 (55-20-35-55) and helped the Stars reach the USHL Western Conference Finals.
Lincoln stormed from the gates with ten straight wins to start the season, yet Johnson scored just once in his first 11 games, a stretch abbreviated by an appearance at the World Junior A Challenge where he won gold with Team USA.
The Stars faded quickly after their sizzling start and have since posted an 8-9-1 record that included a five-game winless skid.
Johnson, a University of North Dakota recruit, is coming on though with six goals in his last 13 games.
Lincoln’s roster features a pair of 2012 NHL draftees in defensemen Mike McKee (Det,140) and Paul Ladue (LA,181), plus some attractive prospects for the upcoming draft.
McKeen’s reporter Matt Barth provides game reports on Johnson, Ross Olsson, and Justin Woods. Both Johnson (8th) and Olsson (10th) were ranked by Central Scouting on their preliminary USHL/NTDP rankings – as was Zach Pittman (23rd), a healthy scratch for this particular contest.
Luke Johnson (C, 2013), Lincoln – slow to find his groove this season with just one goal in his first 11 games .. talented, strong-skating pivot with solid offensive instincts and playmaking vision .. proficient at finding the seams to move the puck through .. excels making plays tight spaces thanks to excellent hands .. top weapon is an terrific shot that features a quick, accurate release .. most dangerous when he has the puck below the dots .. tends to force plays at times when in possession, most notably on offensive-zone entries .. strong skater with good acceleration and deceptive speed – gets to top gear within first three strides .. mobile, adept and sturdy on his feet .. works hard along the wall and in the corners, and often comes out with the puck .. willing to take a hit to make a play, competes in the physical battles .. however his compete level is noticeably higher on the puck .. developing into more of a factor on the defensive side will be the challenge .. must learn to get himself into better defensive posture especially when the play is moving toward his net .. does support the puck effectively once his team is in possession .. at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, he still needs to mature and bulk up .. the additional strength and subsequent explosiveness will help him separate from defenders and be more productive as a puckrusher .. boasts the necessary skill and ability to dominate a game, yet does so only sporadically .. showed better all-around intensity in his rookie season .. will need to pick it up and find better scoring consistency if he hopes to enter the first-round discussion .. committed to the University of North Dakota for next fall.
Ross Olsson (RW, 2013), Lincoln – a big-bodied power forward .. demonstrates a solid work ethic and consistent effort every shift .. utilizes his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame to make a physical impact .. makes every effort to finish his checks .. strong and stable on his feet, supported by an expansive frame .. boast a decent scoring touch around the net – supported by average hands and puckhandling skills .. contributes a regular net-front presence as he is difficult for the opposition to move or overpower in physical match-ups .. his skating still has to progress however, as he lacks overall polish and smoothness .. must work to upgrade his first three steps as well as lateral footwork which tends to slow his momentum on transitions .. the 2013 Northeastern University recruit will most likely be drafted somewhere in the middle three rounds, albeit could find a way into the top 60 due to his size and physical aggression.
Justin Woods (D, 2013), Lincoln – a two-way defenseman who exudes tremendous confidence with the puck for a USHL rookie .. skilled enough to work his way up the ice – and not afraid to join offensive rushes when the opportunity presents itself .. hands are good enough to make his way through traffic and tight quarters .. proficient at evading attackers when in possession of the puck .. makes a hard first pass in the defensive zone .. packs a heavy shot – however needs to be more consistent in hitting the net .. must also work on upgrading his passing consistency as doesn’t always hit his mark on the tape .. possesses a strong stride and solid footwork .. quick on his pivots, directional changes, lateral movements, as well as stops and starts .. displays decent defensive awareness and anticipation of offensive pressure .. solid compete level – battles to make plays .. uses his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame to defend and win puck battles .. maintains proper gaps and defensive positioning .. makes effective use of his stick when defending – quite adept getting stick-on-puck .. recently committed to Alaska Fairbanks for 2013 – and has the requisite size and skill to be a strong NCAA player .. there’s also some long-term potential here that could warrant a late-round NHL selection.