Defenseman Filip Johansson is aware of the pressure he inherited once he became a first-round NHL draft pick.
He moved under a magnifying glass, with every step of his development getting dissected to anticipate when he’ll debut and how much impact he’ll have.
But what’s toughest for Johansson isn’t living up to that hype. It’s meeting his own expectations.
“I want more from myself,” Johansson said.
After an uneven season in Sweden, the 24th overall selection from a year ago isn’t only focused on improving his play as he vies to get closer to the NHL. Johansson is also honing an outlook that will facilitate the type of growth he’s hoping will get him to the Wild.
“You need to work on a lot of things, on the ice [and] off the ice,” the 19-year-old said Wednesday at the team’s development camp. “Just the whole package, I want to be better with all of it.”
Before the Wild tabbed him with its first-round pick last year, Johansson used to tune in to the chatter about his game in the hockey world — feedback he interpreted as praise.
Eventually, though, he felt a shift.
“You come to the part when you don’t play that good, and it’s the other way,” Johansson said.
The start of last season was a difficult one for Johansson. He strove for consistency, but mixed solid showings with poor performances.
“That’s not how I want to play,” Johansson said. “I want to be a guy Coach can trust every night, so that’s one of the things I tried to work on. If you have a bad game, it shouldn’t be that bad.”
In time, he improved — and so did his team, with Leksands getting promoted to Sweden’s top league for next season. But there’s still more progress to achieve.
In 47 games, Johansson managed only one goal and four points, offensive totals he hopes he can eclipse by focusing on his shot and jumping into the rush. He also wants to bulk up from his 6-1, 176-pound frame and strengthen his skating, an area Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir already has noticed get better since Johansson skated with the Iowa Wild for a week during the team’s playoff run this spring.
Johansson received that invite because the Wild wanted him be around the organization and watch American Hockey League action but also to enjoy himself.
“He puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Bombardir said. “That’s the kind of guy he is. He wants to do well. He wants to almost be perfect sometimes. For him, we just want him to relax and have fun because he’s a good hockey player.”
Bombardir doesn’t have a target date in mind for when Johansson could be ready to join the Wild, and he doesn’t want the right-shot defender to feel pressure.
“I just want him to know he’s a good hockey player and that when he’s out on the ice, he’s a very capable player,” Bombardir explained. “He’s one of the best puck-movers, first-pass puck movers that we’ve had in our organization that we’ve drafted. So that’s his gift.”
While he acknowledged he’s occasionally too hard on himself, Johansson knows he need to change that and has concentrated on listening to his coaches, teammates and those closest to him instead of the outside noise.
And as he continues this journey, Johansson feels like’s making strides toward the Wild and NHL.
“I know it’s a long way yet to make it,” he said. “It’s just maybe more realistic now than it was a year ago. I know what I need to work on to have a chance to get there. I know it’s very hard and not a lot of players make it. You feel it more like, ‘If I work on this, I might have a chance.’ It’s more realistic now.”