Former Trail Smoke Eaters forward Kent Johnson is taking his game to a whole new level.
On April 8, Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen announced the signing of Johnson to a three-year, entry level contract beginning immediately.
“Kent Johnson is a remarkable young man both on and off the ice,” said Kekalainen in a release. “He is a highly-skilled and creative player who can bring you out of your seat whenever he’s on the ice. We’re thrilled that he is taking the next step in his career and look forward to his growth and contributions as a Blue Jacket for years to come.”
The talented Smoke Eaters playmaker was selected by the Blue Jackets in the first round, fifth overall, at the 2021 NHL Draft.
Johnson, 19, finished his college career at University of Michigan with 17 goals and 47 assists for 64 points with 10 penalty minutes, seven power play goals, five game-winning goals, 127 shots and a cumulative +41 plus/minus rating in 58 games over two seasons.
The Port Moody native was named to the Big Ten All-Rookie Team and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after collecting 9-18-27 in 26 appearances in 2020-21. He also ranked second in rookie scoring in the Big Ten and third in the nation among freshmen in points-per-game (1.04).
Johnson made his international debut for Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, finishing fifth in the tournament in plus/minus rating, sixth in assists and seventh in points (1-4-5). He also skated for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships.
He won’t hit 20 until Oct. 18 of this year, which means he will become the 16th teenager to make his NHL debut as a Blue Jacket if he plays down the stretch. He was expected to make his NHL debut on Wednesday, April 13 versus the Montreal Canadiens but that info was unavailable at press time.
Johnson and the favoured Wolverines lost 3-2 in overtime in the semifinal of the NCAA Frozen Four tournament to the Denver Pioneers on April 7, but the experience and busy season has provided the rookie NHLer a new perspective.
“I’ve put too much work in the last year to be the same player (I was before),” he said in a release. “I definitely feel a lot better. I think I’ve learned something, just little things from different guys. I think a big one is just confidence — having confidence and believing in yourself is gonna be huge.”
The six-foot-one, 165-pound center racked up 61 goals and 147 points with 40 penalty minutes in 111 career outings with the Smoke Eaters from 2018-20. He led the BCHL in goals, assists and points in 2019-20 with 41-60-101 and 14 power play goals in 52 contests during the 2019-20 regular season.
He was awarded the BCHL’s Most Valuable Player, Top Scorer and Most Sportsmanlike Player following his 2019-20 campaign.