Colorado Avalanche’s Erik Johnson Plays 500th Game


Colorado Avalanche Defenseman Erik Johnson reached a milestone when he played his 500th NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Colorado Avalanche’s cornerstone of defense, Erik Johnson, skated in his 500th NHL game Tuesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Johnson had an eventful game. He earned an assist on the Avalanche’sonly goal of the game,  scored by captainGabriel Landeskog.  He also got a penalty for slashing,  which Colorado killed. Nonetheless,  the Avalanche fell to the Blackhawks 2-1.

A Little Erik Johnson Background

The Colorado Avalanche acquired Johnson in a trade with the St. Louis Blues in February 2011. St.Louis drafted Johnson with their first-overall draft pick in 2006, one of only two American-born (and first ever Minnesotan) defensemen to be chosen at that position.

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However, Colorado and St. Louis engineered a blockbuster trade that brought Johnson to the Avalanche in 2011. He has since skated in 297 contests with the team. In that time, Johnson has scored 35 goals and earned a total 119 points for the Colorado Avalanche. Erik Johnson — or as fans like to call him, Condor — is in his eighth season in the NHL.

As Johnson himself pointed out in a pregame presser, he probably should have reached the 500-game milestone a little sooner. Unfortunately, injuries hampered him throughout his career. He even missed the entire 2008-2009 season with the Blues recovering from a knee injury. He spent the second half of last season recovering from knee surgery.

Despite that, Johnson is the first defenseman from the 2006 draft to skate in 500 games. Defense is a tough position.

Johnson Quotes

During his presser, Erik Johnson had a lot to say about his 500 games in the NHL. First of all, his most memorable game was one with St. Louis. Just his second game into the NHL, Johnson scored a goal — and it happened to be the game winner. Johnson said of the memory:

"“You always remember that as kind of your ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment. Games like that are always fun, where you hit a milestone like that. It was my second game, so it was 498 games ago. So it goes by pretty fast.”"

Of course, here in Colorado, we’re always going to be partial to Johnson’s first goal as an Avalanche. He just so happened to score it against his former team — a feat not even great forwards like Paul Stastny or Ryan O’Reilly could manage.

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Erik Johnson is renowned for being an American patriot. He earned his chops in the United States National Team Development Program, and he’s represented the U.S. in numerous international competitions, including the 2010 Olympic Games. That pride is reflected in his musings on last night’s milestone:

"“It’s nice to definitely hit that, especially being an American guy, growing up in Minnesota. Not too many American defenseman have even played that many games, so I just want to keep going and continue to play well and play as many games as I can.”"

Needless to say, Avs Nation wants that, too. The entire blueline is constructed around him and Tyson Barrie.

Erik Johnson’s Future

Luckily for the Colorado Avalanche, Erik Johnson is committed to sticking with the team. As a large, highly skilled, right-handed defenseman, he’s at a premium in the NHL. Despite that, he signed a very team-friendly contract extension with Colorado during the preseason. The extension keeps him in burgundy and blue until 2023. That’s seven more years.

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Johnson was deliberate in his signing with Colorado. He stated in more than one press conference that he wanted to stay long-term with the Avalanche.

What that means for the team is that Colorado gets him through his prime. A 27-year-old now, Erik Johnson will complete his contract as a 35-year-old. That’s pretty veteran for a blueliner, though Francois Beauchemin has shown us a defenseman that age can still play at a high level.

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Johnson is sure to be that kind of defenseman as well. Though no longer in his prime, 30-something Johnson will still be a force to reckon with on the Colorado Avalanche blueline — one that leads the youngsters in how to succeed in the NHL as a defenseman.

In other words, Avs Nation, Erik Johnson’s next 500 games start tomorrow night against the Dallas Stars. And they may all well be with the Colorado Avalanche.