The Färjestad export Marcus Johansson has come a long way since he got the 2010 NWT's scholarship. (the scholarship is awarded to promising young athletes from the Värmland region). "My girlfriend Amelia came over for a visit yesterday and she's staying until January 10. She goes to school in Sweden so she can’t be here full time. We were invited to celebrate Christmas with Nicklas Bäckström and his family that also came over from Sweden." says Marcus.
Reason number two for being happy.
"Things are finally starting to work both for me and for Washington.The last three games are my best since I came here, and the New Jersey game was my best game so far in the NHL. It feels like the we are up and running now."
Dream pass fetches dinner
Marcus refers to the 5-1 victory against New Jersey three days before Christmas. He started the game by delivering a dream pass to Andrew Gordon, who made it 1-0.
"He’s been called up from Hershey. It was Andrew's first NHL goal and he promised to buy me dinner as a thank you."
Marcus made his debut in Washington on his 20th birthday on October 6. But after that a groin injury got in the way.
"I missed a week and a half and had to start over with some games with the Farm Team."
Since the return to the big club both his confidence and his game have been growing but Marcus got to experience some really hard times too.
"We started off great but then we lost eight straight games, it was no fun. Neither the club or the fans were used to such adversity and difficulties. And us players on the ice suddenly wanted it too much. Everyone knew that something would happen if we didn’t break the trend."
But Washington did just that in the game against Ottawa on December 19.
"We started to play the right way again and went back to basics. We played our system to a tee and everyone did exactly what was asked of them. Sure we could have scored more goals but the main thing was that we found our game again and won (3-2)."
Thanks to the excellent start Washington is close to the top of the Eastern Conference. When we talked to Marcus the Caps were in second place with only Philadelphia ahead of them in the standings. Marcus himself has three goals and three assists in 23 games.
Marcus has situated himself well in Washington.
"I really like it here. It’s big but not big enough so you risk getting lost all the time. I live at Nicklas' old place and it’s just two minutes away from our training arena. To the game arena it’s a bit farther, it’s downtown and I live on the outskirts of Washington."
Swedish superstar and teammate Nicklas Bäckström has meant a lot to Marcus.
"He’s been there for me in every way, he is a big support both on and off the ice. And it's nice to be able to speak Swedish with someone when there’s things you don’t understand."
So have you met the president Obama yet?!
"Haha. No, not yet. I haven’t even been inside the White House. I've only seen it from the outside, but me and Amelia have been talking about going there while she's here"
Rookie Dinner is next
Marcus signed a three-year contract with Washington and is off to a great start. He’s one of the few Swedish exports that claimed a regular spot in the NHL this season. And the youngest.
Are you surprised?
"The goal was to take a spot on the team and I know what I’m capable of."
Have you been forced to pay for the rookie dinner yet?
"No, but it's coming up."
When the time comes Marcus better bring the big wallet. Such party usually costs six figures in Swedish kronor ...
What do you do in your spare time?
"I spend a lot of time with my teammates. Great guys. They make me feel at home here."
Mega Star Ovechkin showed his appreciation for his young, humble teammate when Marcus turned twenty. The images of the Russian shoving a birthday cake right in the face of Marcus, have had a lot of hits on the web.
Washington is notorious for its crime rate.
"You just have to avoid the most dangerous areas so there is no danger really."
There wasn’t much time for Christmas and New Year celebrations. Washington schedule during weekends: Games on the 23, 26, and 28 of December and then on New Year's Day.
But that’s why Marcus is here! In order to play as much as possible.
What do you think about Washington's chances?
"I have a feeling that we can win the Stanley Cup this year. I think the team learned a lot when we lost eight straight. It made us stronger."
After our conversation with Marcus, his Washington have played two more games. One shoot out lose (2-3) against Pittsburgh and a victory, (3-2) against Carolina.
Name: Lars Marcus Johansson.
Birth: 1990-06-10 Landskrona.
Family: girlfriend Amelia, mom Gunilla, dad Lasse, brother Martin, sister Anna.
My first competition: I can’t remember but it has to be when I first started to play hockey in Björnligan (the Bear league) when I was four back home in Landskrona. I first started to skate when I was two and a half years old.
My biggest competition: That depends on what you mean with competition. My first game in NHL was huge and winning the Swedish elite league was great too. If you look at one single competition I have to say World Juniors and the silver medal in 2009.
The reason I become a hockey player: It’s in my blood. Both my dad and my uncle played (with Färjestad). And my big brother Martin played. It was a given that I would play hockey. I haven’t really played any other sport.
The thing I can’t resist doing: Play video games My favorite is Call of Duty.
My Idol: My brother Martin and Peter Forsberg.