Of course he isn't a dirty player but the headline needs to be an attention getter as well as get to my main point.
I realize it's early to be writing this piece but I have a sixth sense about things. If you don't believe me - check out my Forum piece entitled "Prediction: David Perron will return to Juniors". Yes, I'm quite the prognosticator.
EJ is only seven games into his NHL career and I've been very impressed with his play to this point. He is a tremendous skater as well as puck handler and seems not to become rattled when pressured. He has all the tools necessary to become the dominant cornerstone the Blues hoped they drafted #1 overall.
Seven games in, the statistics do not really tell much of a story. He played two games, sat out ten with a broken foot and has been back for five. Minus 1, to go with one goal and three assists while logging close to 16:00 minutes a game. Ho Hum.
It's not fair to compare one player to another in many instances but because of so many similiarities Blues fans cannot help but measure young Erik with the likes of Chris Pronger. By all comparisions, their size and skill sets will seem to link these two in side by side comparisons for years to come I'm afraid.
To this point, there is no comparison. Erik Johnson is light years ahead of what a 21 year old Chris Pronger looked like when he first arrived in Saint Louis. Pronger was skinny and clumsy with the puck and didn't skate well. Not to mention his level of fitness was called into serious question by Head Coach and GM Mike Keenan. When Pronger finished near the bottom of the roster in Keenan's pet measuring stick the VO2 test, Iron Mike came unglued. "Do you realize what we gave up to get you?!?!?!"
There are moments in every game when EJ is on the ice and I hardly notice. Not a bad thing for a defensman. Then there are two or three "wow" moments when I see small things that he can do that make me say "that was a great play by Johnson" that show just how poised he is. The skating, the shot, the poise all tell me the points will come.
The stat that sticks out at me so far, just a mere seven games in that causes me alarm, you ask? PIM = 0.
From everyone around the organization you hear "he's such a great kid". Oh, I hope not.
The piece of the EJ puzzle I want to see fulfilled in the coming months - I want to see some attitude. A chip on the shoulder. The physical side of EJ. That's what I'll be looking for as his young career progresses.
Again, if I'm going to draw the comparison to Mr. Pronger - he's a dominant defenseman in this league partly because of his size, partly because of his reach, partly because of his level of fitness. But let's be honest. Pronger dominates like no other because he's one nasty SOB to play against.
The scouting reports we read about Erik suggest he has this in his arsenal. I certainly hope so. I want fans and bloggers from all over Canada, the United States and New Foundland to one day scream "Erik Johnson is a dirty player!!!" Then I'll know he's fulfilling his promise.