March 24 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard (4) battle for control of the puck during the third period of the game at the Pepsi Center. The Canucks defeated the Avalanche 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Get to Know Your Colorado Avalanche: Erik Johnson

Welcome to “get to know your Avs”! This feature will take a look at current Avalanche players (and maybe some staff, too) to give you an idea as to just who these guys are and what they mean to the Avalanche.

Yes, some (or most) of you will already know these guys but don’t be party poopers; nobody likes party poopers.

Today, we look at the former #1 overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, a point of frustration for the Avs and the fan base alike: Erik Johnson.

Who: Erik Johnson

Nicknames: EJ, Edge, E

How He Came to Denver: Traded from St.Louis with Jay McClement and a conditional first-round pick (Duncan Siemens) for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, and a conditional second-round pick (Ty Rattie).

What he’s done: In St.Louis, it looked like he might live up to all the Pronger comparisons with his skating and offensive ability. Then he tore his knee in a stupid accident, missed the entire 2008/09 season, and came back looking not quite the same.

Since his trade to Colorado, he’s actually been pretty good, though nowhere near the offensive player he was during his early days in St.Louis and not where he needs to be to fill out those lofty “first overall” expectations.

He’s one of the few dependable defensemen on the roster and will be the anchor for what should otherwise be a very young and/or bad unit. Without Johnson, it could be much, MUCH worse.

Also something to remember: the guy is 25. He’s still growing as a player and could very well end up being that offensive defenseman people expected first overall but even if he doesn’t, isn’t the idea to play well in your own end?

What he means to the team currently: As stated, he’s pretty much alone in terms of dependability on the back end. One of the main reasons the Avalanche were so bad last year, and will likely be bad again this year, is because it was basically Johnson and a bunch of pylons in front of Semyon Varlamov. He’s been a pretty good top-pairing defenseman but everyone needs some help.

He’ll get all the important situations for the Avalanche because he’s hands down their best defender; whether all that time will help him develop more offensively is anyone’s guess but he’ll be on the ice getting the opportunity.

What to expect: At 25, Johnson is likely hitting his physical and professional prime; if not this year, then certainly soon. I’m not saying he’s going to have the breakout that Chris Pronger had a 25 – Pronger won the Hart and Norris Trophies at that age – but we’re likely about to see the best that Johnson has to offer.

He’ll likely fall closer to the .49 points-per-game he had during his two full seasons in St.Louis than the .35 of his last two non-lockout years in Colorado. He’s probably going to miss some time as well – that’s been a constant problem throughout his career – but if he plays 78 or 79 games, look for him to top 30 points and maybe even hit double-digits in goals.

Johnson won’t be the elite defenseman that many expected when he was picked first overall but he’ll far and away be the Avs’ best defenseman.

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