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Johnson learned lessons from NHL dad, hopes to make impact with Sabres

Defenseman picked No. 31 in 2019 Draft is son of forward

by Heather Engel / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Ryan Johnson is the son of a former NHL player, but that doesn't guarantee him a future in the League.

He seems to be on his way, though.

Johnson, who was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with their second pick in the first round (No. 31) of the 2019 NHL Draft, is the son of Craig Johnson, who played 557 NHL games and now works in player development for the Los Angeles Kings.


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"My dad just says to take it all in, just enjoy it and have fun with it," Johnson said during Sabres development camp in June. "But also, it's just the start of a long, another journey. Your work paid off, but you have a long way to go as well."

The elder Johnson was a forward for the St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals. The younger Johnson is a defenseman who grew up a Ducks fan in Irvine, California, and played two seasons with the Anaheim Junior Ducks U-16 team before playing for Sioux Falls of the United States Hockey League last season.

"My dad's been huge for me," Johnson said. "He introduced me to the game at a young age and taught me everything I know. Obviously, you've got to develop your own passion for the game, but he's been there every step of the way, just kind of guiding me and always offering advice. It's nice to have that."

Video: Sabres draft D Ryan Johnson No. 31

Though he's soaked up all he can from his father over the years and has been around NHL players his whole life, Johnson learned something at his first Sabres development camp.

"Just seeing how these older guys take care of their body, take care of themselves, their pro kind of lifestyle. It's kind of cool to see and try to learn from them," said Johnson, who turns 18 on July 24 and was the youngest player at camp.

He learned a lot in Sioux Falls, where he had 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 54 regular-season games before contributing eight points (two goals, six assists) in 12 playoff games that led to a Clark Cup championship. He found his comfort level playing in a tougher league, breeding confidence and ultimately helping him earn a spot on the USHL All-Rookie Team.

His next step will take him to the University of Minnesota, his father's alma mater. Johnson (6-foot, 170 pounds) wants to add muscle and felt it would be best to develop under the guidance of coach Bob Motzko.

"I call him a new-age defenseman," Sabres director of amateur scouting Ryan Jankowski said. "He skates extremely well, he moves the puck extremely well, he defends with his brain. ... So, I like the well-roundedness of him. From an offensive standpoint, we think that can still come. But even if it doesn't, we know we've got a new-age defenseman that can move the puck and skate."



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