ARLINGTON, V.A. — Coming back to MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Marcus Johansson found himself right at home as he took the ice for the Washington Capitals morning skate. His current and former teammates erupted in stick taps as Peter Laviolette welcomed him back to the club.
Clad in a Capitals team hoodie with the same No. 90 he wore during his seven-year tenure from 2010-2017 and Capitals hat, Johansson wears a grin as he admits that after five years, it’s like nothing changed.
“This is the one place I wanted to go. We were here a few weeks ago and coming here it still feels like home,” Johansson said. “I’m just very excited for the opportunity. This feels special, and real happy to be here.”
On Monday, Johansson got the call from the Seattle Kraken that he had been traded back to the very team that drafted him back in 2009 in exchange for picks and Daniel Sprong. He made his way across the country from the Pacific Northwest in time for the morning skate, where he fit right in with several of his former teammates.
Being back on the ice, Johansson was all smiles as he chatted it up with his new and old teammates. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, John Carlson, Lars Eller and Dmitry Orlov are all familiar and close with the Swede after playing several years with him.
“Just the same, it feels like,” Johansson said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been here but it kind of feels the same still. It’s kind of what makes this place feel special like coming here it feels like you still know everybody such good friendships and bonds that you’ve had over all the years and somehow it kind of feels like nothing changed.”
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No. 90 is already familiar with a lot of the team’s systems and found himself slotting right in and getting up to speed on Tuesday. As the Capitals face the Blues in Johansson’s first game back with the club, the 31-year-old will skate on the top line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, two former linemates that he’s quite used to. He will also get time on the second power-play unit.
“It’s just a starting point. They’ve had some history, they’ve played together before,” Laviolette noted. “Just with some guys out of the lineup and trying to get a balance throughout the lineup, it’s just a starting point.”
“I played with Kuzy the last two years I was here and it was great. I think we had a lot of chemistry and obviously played with Ovi a lot too before that so I mean with those two guys you just carry on and play and do your best and work hard and I think things will come by itself,” Johansson added.
Johansson also explained how already knowing Washington’s systems proves useful, especially when it comes to joining a new team. “JoJo” has been around the league quite a bit after leaving D.C. in a trade to the New Jersey Devils in 2017. Since then, he has played for New Jersey, the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild and Kraken. Now, he’s happy to be back and be in familiar territory, and that in itself will benefit his transition back.
“I mean, it helps a lot. It’s always easier than coming somewhere where everything’s new,” Johansson explained. “And some of the systems are a little bit different with new coach and all that but it’s familiar and just walk through it so I’m just excited to get a chance to get out there tonight and just play hockey.”
At the end of the day, while Johansson revealed that a lot of this experience is familiar to him, he does see himself as a different person on and off the ice than he was five years back, and he’s excited to bring all of those assets, from his speed to mentality, to D.C. the second time around.
“You grow and you learn every year. And every new experience you have, I feel like I’m a better hockey player, I feel like I’ve taken steps in the right direction,” Johansson shared. “There’s been a lot of injuries over the last few years but still feel like I’ve grown as a person and as a hockey player, too. I’m excited to be here.”