Port Moody’s Kent Johnson plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets
Kent Johnson is playing his first NHL game in Vancouver on Friday, just two days after scoring the overtime winner against the Edmonton Oilers
Jay Johnson can’t wipe the smile off his face.
Ten rows of maroon seats below him, his 20-year-old son Kent rolls across the ice at Rogers Arena with his Columbus Blue Jackets teammates just hours before his first NHL game in front of friends and family.
Johnson couldn’t say how many.
But he dreads his visit to a ticket dealer’s website later in the day to see what he might dig up for some friends who have asked to join the Port Moody contingent heading to Friday’s (27-27) game. January) against Vancouver drives Canucks.
Kent Johnson said that while he didn’t exactly mark his calendar when the NHL released its schedule last summer, it’s “really exciting to play against the team he cheered for as a kid — not that many years ago when the Sedins were still playing. ”
“I’ve always wanted to play in this building, so coming full circle will be cool,” the 20-year-old told Tri-City News.
Johnson is in his first full season with the Blue Jackets, who drafted him fifth overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
He is a highly acclaimed forward who ignited the BC Hockey League (BCHL), scoring 101 points in 52 games in his senior season with the Trail Smoke Eaters and 64 points in 58 games during his two seasons at the University of Michigan scored nine games in the NHL late last season after ending his college season.
Johnson said Sampler, along with further opportunities to play against men at the Winter Olympics in Beijing last February and the Ice Hockey World Championships a few months later in Helsinki, Finland, helped fuel his transition to becoming a full-time professional ice hockey player facilitate.
“It was pretty smooth I’d say.”
In 45 games this season before Vancouver, Johnson has recorded nine goals and 14 assists — sixth among this year’s NHL rookies.
Probably none of his goals were bigger than the overtime winner, which he scored on Wednesday (January 25) to give the Blue Jackets a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
The win earned Johnson and his teammates a day off in Vancouver on Thursday (January 26), which the young hero capped off with a family dinner at a downtown restaurant.
He said it’s nice to come home as high as the goal in extra time gave him, but his spirits are always up when he hits the ice.
“It’s pretty easy to get motivated in the NHL,” Johnson said. “But obviously this one feels a little more special.”
Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said he’s pleased with Johnson’s progress even as the team has struggled through a seemingly endless parade of injuries that have left them near the bottom of the table.
“He’s growing and improving,” Larsen said, adding that Johnson’s ability to slow down the game in his head and read what’s going to happen has progressed significantly since the start of the season.
“He’s got a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger.”
Johnson said he’s just trying to get better and earn more time on the ice, an aspiration he backs by being generally the last player off the ice during practice and morning skating. It’s a pattern that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates and the Blue Jackets’ traveling crew, who pin him when he finally runs to the locker room after skating before Friday’s game.
“He’s always working on his game,” said Larsen. “He has tremendous ability.”
Johnson said having a teammate from his Michigan days, Cole Sillinger, made that job more fun, and veterans like Columbus captain Boone Jenner were willing to take the team’s young players under their wing.
That’s helped Johnson respond to some of the challenges he’s faced, such as being moved from his usual left wing position to center for several games as injuries exhausted the Blue Jackets’ pivot corps .
“He handled it very well,” Larsen said of the way Johnson handled the corners, adding he had “great balance”.
At the top of the stands, Jay Johnson surveys the cavernous arena around him. His son may not have marked this day on the calendar, but he certainly did.
“It’s pretty exciting.”