Different players develop at different rates. That goes without saying. What seems to be decent progress in one player’s game may be seen as frustration in another’s. The first player may be more skilled, so his development may seem slower or faster depending on an array of situations, including who we are comparing him to. Defenseman, for example, seem to be granted a longer learning curve due to the nature of their responsibilities.
Although development is subjective, a certain rate is expected to be met in order to be a NHL player. While good teams build through their farm system, giving their prospects time to develop and mature, they can’t wait forever.
Coaches and management walk a fine line when developing a player. Should this prospect develop in the minors or would he benefit from NHL experience? The way in which those decisions are handled separate the John Davidsons of the world from the Scott Howsons of the world.
In the ever-competitive game of hockey, we must compare the development of players in order to make sure the right players fit into the right systems. However unfair it may seem, it’s necessary. While everyone has their own rate of growth, they still must grow within the universal NHL rate.
Let’s take what I’ve been saying and apply it to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner especially. These two players are young and talented with a future as bright as they are willing to make it. With their development at differing stages in their respective careers, how will we compare them and ultimately judge them against each other?
First we decipher the expectations from each player. Then we match their rate of development with their expectations, giving you a good measurement to their development. The expectations for Ryan Johansen increase with each year. And that’s not necessarily because of his improvement, but more so because of his increasing NHL experience. So what’s expected of Ryjo this season? And how do we judge his development? Good questions.
We need to first analyze Ryan’s purpose on this team. When he was drafted 4th overall, the Columbus Blue Jackets really looked to him as the future. He had a skill set that was seen down the road as elite. Jackets management figured that with a little time, he would grow into his own, and bring a status of goal scoring and finesse to the league.
Three years later, how do you judge his progress?
Although not terribly loud or consistent, a buzz around the city suggests a hint of frustration about this guy. Even though he’s only 21, it was figured that Johansen would have taken the necessary strides to show his elite status on a more regular basis. At times, with particularly fascinating stick handling or a brilliant feed, Johansen shows he has the tools. It just seems that, a kid being a kid, he usually forgets his toolbox. Or in other words, he hasn’t learned how to be that threat night in and night out.
Pressure obviously lies more heavily on Johansen than it does on Jenner. Ryan has to be able to bring elite status and consistency together this year. He needs to prove himself, not only as a guy who can score, but as a difference maker. Do other teams game plan for him? Maybe not every night, but if the answer to that is more often than not “no,” then his development is considered a failure. Top 5 draft picks aren’t selected for their depth and enforcing.
Looking to Boone Jenner, we have to switch our expectations. He will be given time to adjust in the NHL unlike Ryan, who’s already been allotted that luxury. The Blue Jackets coaching and management will be looking for several aspects of his game, as to whether he will be able to be an everyday NHLer.
Having said that however, Jenner’s development will be less complicated to judge. First, he’s not as experienced, so less is expected of him. He’s still on a friendly timetable to learn the NHL game. The main ingredient in Boone’s game will be if he can score. Coach Richards will be looking if he can create chances for himself not only in good games, but when Columbus is having a difficult time in the offensive category. Can he score when the others can’t? It may not be a deal breaker, but it will speak volumes for his future play.
Jenner is not expected to put up 30+ plus goals this season. But he needs to show he can score on the NHL level. He needs to show the Jackets that his tallies can translate to the big leagues. Boone can’t look lost out there or go games where he’s invisible. He needs to show he can play with the big boys every night and be effective, whatever that means.
As for Johansen, it’s ultimately a different story. By the end of the season, he should be considered one of the premier talents in the league. Teams need to be game planning for this kid, point blank. He can no longer just be considered a future star. Because for Ryan Johansen, the future is now.