Anaheim Jr. Ducks Midget 16U AAA defenseman Ryan Johnson became the highest drafted Californian in the United States Hockey League's Futures (or Phase I) Draft on Monday when the Sioux Falls Stampede selected him third overall.
Johnson, who was invited to the U.S. National Team Development Program's top-40 prospects evaluation camp in late March, is a 2001 birth year and son of Jr. Ducks Director of Coaches Craig Johnson. Ryan Johnson was one of four past and present Jr. Ducks selected by USHL teams.
"It's huge for the program," said Jr. Ducks Director of Player Personnel Alex Kim, who along with Craig Johnson coached the 16U AAA team. "Ryan's a really good hockey player who has put in a lot of hard work, as have Drake Usher and Brett Roloson."
Usher, a teammate of Johnson's this past season, and Roloson, a former Jr. Ducks player, went in the Phase II portion of the draft, which this year was for players born in 2000 or earlier.
The early selection of Ryan caught the Johnsons a bit off guard, Craig said.
"We're very excited. I'm very happy and very proud of him for how hard he's working in the game," he said, adding he learned of the selection while Ryan was working out. "He knows because he's drafted the hard work starts now. He's got to train and get ready for whenever he takes that next step."
Ryan Johnson had 28 points in 36 games in the Tier I Elite Hockey League, and added seven points in 11 CAHA games. He helped the Jr. Ducks 16U AAA team and the Santa Margarita Catholic High School both reach the USA Hockey Youth Nationals this past season. Santa Margarita, a member of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League, reached the championship game at Nationals.
A former Jr. Ducks teammate of Ryan's, defenseman Nicholas Kent, was a second-round pick of the Green Bay Gamblers, 24th overall, in the Phase I draft. Kent, who has committed to Quinnipiac University, played for Delta Hockey Academy in British Columbia this past season, scoring 25 points in 33 games.
The 10-round Phase I draft is for players who will be U17 next season, in this case 2001s. The USHL instituted the drafts in 2005.
Usher, a 2000 defenseman, was taken by the Youngstown Phantoms in the 18th round (284th overall). Usher had 25 points in (eight goals) in 36 Tier I games and 11 points in 13 CAHA games.
Roloson, a 2000 forward, was selected by Dubuque in the 20th round (320th overall). Roloson played this past season for the Shawnigan Lake School (British Columbia) varsity and prep teams, scoring 38 points (18 goals) in 34 games.
"We thought the Jr. Ducks could have had more (USHL picks)," Craig Johnson said. "We had a lot of deserving players."
The previous highest-picked Jr. Ducks player a Phase I draft came in 2011, when center Max Becker was picked 13th overall by Youngstown. Becker plays collegiately at Princeton.
Last year, Jr. Ducks defenseman Slava Demin was selected in the second round, 18th overall, by the Des Moines Buccaneers. Demin played for Wenatchee in the British Columbia Hockey League this past season and committed to the University of Denver.
Ryan Johnson is the sixth Californian to be selected in the first round or to sign a pre-draft tender (the equivalent of a first-round pick) by a USHL team since 2005, when the Futures draft was instituted.
In 2011, Trevor Moore was selected No. 8 overall - the previous highest a Californian had been drafted. Becker went five spots later and Andrew Oglevie was 14th. Ryan Tait signed a pre-draft tender in 2012 and Brannon McManus did the same in 2015.