Colorado Avalanche D-man Erik Johnson Aims to be a Mentor

DENVER, CO - APRIL 06: Erik Johnson
DENVER, CO - APRIL 06: Erik Johnson /

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is embracing his role as mentor to the young players on the team.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson had long been a leader on the team, even if he doesn’t wear a letter on his jersey. I’ve been remarking for years now how impressed with his leadership skills I am.

Well, Johnson is embarking on his 11th NHL season. At 29 years old, he’s one of the older members on a very young Avalanche team. He’s second only to Matt Duchene in how long he’s been with the team — February 19, 2011, to be exact.

Johnson is still very much the cornerstone of the Colorado Avalanche defense. However, he’s also fully taking on the role of mentor to the young gaggle around him.

During an interview on the Avalanche website, Johnson remarked:

"“I take a lot of pride in being a leader on the team because you can shape and affect the ways some younger guys look at you. You can help their career out by setting an example through your practice style, your game and your recovery.”"

Johnson has long been a leader on the ice. Yet he was once known for making a lot of in-game mistakes. He still makes the occasional mistake of course — every player does. But he’s elevated his game so that he’s always one of the best on the ice. You never not notice EJ.

Earlier in his career, even with the Avs, he took a lot of flak for being a “first-overall bust.” However, that seemed to temper him so that he’s even stronger than ever in his character.

In fact, in the same interview, he had some concrete advice for the younger players:

"“Don’t get too high, don’t get too low.”"

As Johnson pointed out, you might have low moments “when you don’t feel too good about yourself.” And you’re going to have high moments:

"“You know, you might have a hat trick one night and you think the game’s easy and then you get brought back down to earth the next night with a sub-par performance.”"

Ultimately, his best advice was to stay “even keel.”

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Johnson signed a contract extension on September 22, 2015, that went into effect last season. At the time of his signing he was 27. He laughed when he observed that he would be 34 in the last year of his contract. He remarked that he remembered being 19 years old and thinking of players in their 30s as old.

Well, come March, Johnson is going to join the crew — he’ll turn 30.

During his media day interview, Johnson joked that he felt like “the older guy this year” and that it gave him a different perspective.

He went into some of the experience he had when he first came into the NHL — he was 19 years old. He remarked that he had a lot of “older guys that I really looked up to.” One of them was legendary defenseman Al MacInnis. Johnson lived with MacInnis his first year in the league.

Here’s a fun little video about Erik Johnson’s rookie year:

Isn’t it funny to see him with teeth?

Anyway, during his media day presser, he stated, “When you’re a young kid, you feel like those guys are so, so old. And I don’t feel that old.”

Well, even by hockey standards EJ isn’t old just yet. It helps that he says he still feels like a “kid at heart.” That’s evident in the current contest the Colorado Avalanche are holding for the team games in Sweden:

EJ definitely looks like a kid there.

During the preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Johnson sported the A on his sweater. He wore it once a long time ago, too, during a game against the Detroit Red Wings.


The only misstep I felt Patrick Roy made as a coach was failing to award Johnson the A for alternate captain — he’s already been working in that role. I thought the mistake was compounded by Jared Bednar last season, who gave the A the Francois Beauchemin instead.

Well, it was just a preseason game, but there might be a letter available this season. Erik Johnson had earned it. Even if he still fails to get that recognition, he will continue to be a mentor for the Colorado Avalanche.