A former North Shore Winter Club player has earned himself a Top 5 pick in the NHL draft.
Port Moody native Kent Johnson, whose family moved to North Vancouver when he was in high school, is now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets after the team selected him fifth overall in Friday’s draft, which was held virtually for a second consecutive year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson was ranked third among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final report — a list of the best available and eligible players put together by scouts and hockey personnel — after posting 27 points in 26 games in his NCAA freshman campaign with the University of Michigan. The 18-year-old's breakout performance had him second among Big Ten Conference rookies in points. Most draft predictions, however, had Johnson pegged for the eight to 10 range, but the Blue Jackets called his name with the fifth pick.
“I definitely thought I could’ve gotten picked a little bit earlier than maybe what some of the media showed,” he told NHL Network after his selection. “I wasn’t too surprised, but definitely, you know, anything could happen, so I was super fired up when I got picked.”
Johnson played minor hockey at the North Shore Winter Club, suiting up for the A1 bantam [U15] team in 2015-'16, where he was known as a talented but undersized forward, standing 4-foot-11 and weighing in at about 100 pounds. He’s grown more than a foot and added about 70 pounds since then, and has been impressive wherever he has played. In the 2019-'20 season he ran away with the scoring title in the BCHL, racking up 101 points in 52 games with the Trail Smoke Eaters, 30 points more than the second-ranked player.
Johnson was one of three University of Michigan teammates to go in the Top 5 in the NHL draft – Owen Power went first overall to the Buffalo Sabres while Matthew Beniers was the Seattle Kraken's first-ever draft pick at the No. 2 slot for the expansion club.
This was a rare feat for the NHL and Johnson says he's looking forward to hitting the ice against his teammates.
"It was so exciting for all of us to go in the Top 5 and I can't wait to be playing with those guys."
During his short NHL Network interview, Johnson didn't mention if he had plans to go back to Michigan to tune his game before making the jump to the pros.
Earlier this week, Johnson was invited alongside 51 players – six from B.C. – to train and develop at Hockey Canada's summer camp for its national under-20 team.
It's the start of a path that could see him in a red maple leaf sweater at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton and Red Deer.
– with files from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News