Past Success Has Tyler Johnson Confident about Future

By Jeremy Houghtaling

At 22 years old, Tyler Johnson already has a tough time picking out the biggest accomplishment of his young career.

Success seems to follow the Syracuse Crunch center, who won the Memorial Cup in his first junior season, won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships, and hoisted the Calder Cup last year in his rookie professional season.

"Each specific trophy has great memories, and holds a different piece of my heart," Johnson said.

Undrafted due to his 5-9 frame, Johnson signed a three-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning in March 2011 and wasted little time becoming an impact player for an already impressive Norfolk Admirals team just a few months later.

Johnson scored 31 goals and added 37 assists in 75 regular season games en route to an inclusion on the American Hockey League's all rookie team.

The Admirals, who went on a record-setting 28-game winning streak to end the regular season, continued to roll in the playoffs. Johnson averaged a point-per-game in the postseason as the team won the championship by sweeping Toronto in the Calder Cup finals.

"The team we had and that amazing run we went on – it was a fairy tale ending," he said about his latest accomplishment.

Still, Johnson had a hard time saying it was definitely better than winning gold for the United States in the 2010 World Junior Championships, or whether it was on par with the 2007-08 Memorial Cup-winning season he had with his hometown team, the Spokane Chiefs.

"I grew up watching the Chiefs play and wanted to win that since I was born," he said.

Johnson's effort with the Chiefs in 2008 earned him the Western Hockey League's most valuable player award for the playoffs, and by the end of his junior career in 2011 he was racking up hardware as the league's leading goal scorer, a first team all star, and top overage player.

"Johnny is an awesome player; he does it all on the ice," said Crunch goalie Dustin Tokarski, who also played with Johnson as a member of the Chiefs and Admirals.

"He's super speedy, super fast. He kills penalties with the best of them, and he's a complete player with a bright future."

During his time with the Chiefs, Johnson had the luxury of staying at home – a dream come true for him.

"I had a lot of family and friends at each and every game," Johnson said. "They pushed me and I had a little edge because I was playing in front of them."

One of those familiar faces will be in the crowd when Syracuse opens the season Friday in Rochester and when the Crunch open at home Saturday against Hershey.

Johnson's father arrived in Syracuse Tuesday night after a three-day drive with many of Tyler’s belongings. He will stick around for the games this weekend.

"I can't say enough good things (about him)," Johnson said. "He's always been there for me."

Just like his father, Johnson is hoping his success follows him to his first year in Syracuse. He definitely isn't bothered by the thought of a sophomore slump.

"As long as you work hard, good things are going to happen," he said. "I'm fortunate to have a good team and a good group of guys. I don't think you have to worry about that."