Tyler Johnson says revamped summer routine paying off
There's no question Lightning center Tyler Johnson can be a dynamic player.
He's a former All-Star and a clutch playoff performer, reasons why Tampa Bay signed him to a seven-year, $35 million extension in July.
"He's in the prime of his career," GM Steve Yzerman said.
The only question is whether Johnson can stay healthy. He's missed 29 games over the past two years. That doesn't include the injuries Johnson has tried to play through, no doubt limiting his effectiveness:
*A broken wrist, suffered in 2014-15 Stanley Cup Final, which Johnson said hampered him for a good part of the following season.
*An upper body injury in Nov. 2015, and undisclosed injury Dec. 2015 which sidelined him for most of the month.
*A lower-body injury in February of last season, and another one in early March. Johnson tried to come back for a couple games in early April as the Lightning battled for a playoff spot, but was then shut down.
However, after revamping his workouts and diet over the summer, Johnson, 27, hopes he's found the right solution. Johnson feels a big difference over this time last last year, when he believed he was stronger and faster than ever.
"Honestly, 10 times better," Johnson said as he reported to informal team skates at the Ice Sports Forum.
Why? The long summer, for starters. This was the first time in Johnson's career - going back to the AHL and juniors - that he missed the playoffs. He hated it. "Something I'd rather never do again," he said.
But it allowed Johnson to fully rest, and implement some changes. He said he took an ASPI (Applied Science & Performance Institute) body science test after the season, a biomechancial evaluation which can detect deficiencies, structural imbalances and more. He learned a lot.
"I changed everything," Johnson said. "I changed the way I ate, the way I trained, the way I moved. I think it feels a lot better."
Johnson switched to a Keto diet, which is a high-fat, low-carb regimen (think more fish, meat, veggies, less pasta, bread, starches. "It's pretty crazy at first, pretty hard to change," Johnson said. "But now it feels pretty good."
In the gym, Johnson focused on strength training, something that was hard to do after breaking his wrist in the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Final and again after the 2015-16 run to the Eastern Conference Final. Johnson said he finally got cleared three-four weeks after last season, figuring he might have been able to return in the playoffs, but not at 100-percent.
Now Johnson is, and thinks the changes he's made will help him avoid some of the nagging injuries he's dealt with in past years. Johnson had 19 goals (45 points) in 66 games last season, the fewest games he's played in a full season. He played in 69 regular-season games in 2015-16.
"Injuries come when your body gets fatigued, that's pretty much what happens," Johnson said. "Sometimes you get some unlucky things here and there, but a lot of times it's fatigue. In a way, it was nice to have that break to relax. I've never had that before. But those summers are way too long. I'd rather not have them."
With a healthy and productive Johnson, there's a good chance next summer won't be so long for the Lightning.