Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bjorn Johansson, the next Borje Salming

Bjorn Johansson was the fifth overall selection in the 1976 NHL amateur draft by the California Seals. A 20 year old defenseman, Johansson was coming off a 30 goal, 51 point season in the Swedish League with Orebro IK. He had been named to the World Junior tournament all-star team that year and had scouts comparing him to the recent Swedish grad, Borje Salming. Johansson was thought so highly of, he was drafted two spots ahead of Hall of Famer Bernie Federko as well as contrymen Kent Nilsson and Thomas Gradin. He also was selected ahead of fellow defensemen, Reed Larson, Randy Carlyle, Mike McEwen and Rick Green.
Johansson would of course never play for the Seals, nobody ever would again as that summer the team would transfer to Cleveland becoming the Barons. He would barely play for the Barons either, counting a mere 15 games and two points over two seasons. He collected 24 and 25 points in consecutive years in the minors before heading back to Sweden.
Johansson reverted to his scoring ways back in the land of Tre Kronor, playing and excelling until 1989.
Bjorn Johansson wasn’t even the worst draft pick by California/Cleveland that year. In round two they selected the much heralded Vern Stenlund who had just scored 119 points for the London Knights. He would notch four games that year for Cleveland before injuries forced him to sit out two seasons. Stenlund came back in 1980/81 to play in Norway scoring 36 goals in 36 games only to retire for good soon after.
As well that year the Seals selected future Sabres GM Darcy Regier and future Mario Lemieux line mate Warren Young who wouldn’t make the big-time for over six years.
That story next….

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