The Penguins honored Adam Johnson ahead of Monday’s game versus Anaheim, sharing moments from his NHL debut and the night he scored his first NHL goal with Pittsburgh in his home state of Minnesota, while fans stood and clapped and players from both teams circled around center ice.

The Penguins wore “AJ 47” decals on their helmets for their former teammate, who tragically lost his life on Saturday in a terrible accident on the ice while playing for the Nottingham Panthers of England’s Elite Ice Hockey League. He was 29.

“It's something that we've all been thinking about since finding out,” captain Sidney Crosby said of Johnson, who spent three seasons in the Penguins organization from 2017-20. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. He's just a great guy, a great teammate, had an awesome attitude while he was here, just genuinely happy to be playing in the NHL. So, it's heartbreaking that that's happened.”

“He was a great kid, he was a good player,” Head Coach Mike Sullivan said. “Boy, he could really skate. It was a privilege to be his coach. There are no words I have to explain how I feel about the whole circumstance. It's just an incredible tragedy.”

Sullivan remembers when Johnson first attended Penguins prospect development camp in the summer of 2017. The team had invited the Hibbing, Minnesota native following a tremendous sophomore season with Minnesota-Duluth, where Johnson clinched their berth in the 2017 Frozen Four with an overtime power-play goal to defeat Boston University, after scoring 18 goals in 42 games.

“That was my first experience of watching him play,” Sullivan said. “I talked to his college coaches about him when we were recruiting him to be a Penguin.”

They were thrilled when Johnson decided to sign an entry-level contract with Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent. He would go on appear in 13 career NHL games and 185 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

“A kid that worked his bag off, and did everything he could to make it to this level,” Bryan Rust said.

Johnson’s first year with the Penguins, the 2017-18 season, was spent entirely in WBS. Penguins director of player development Tom Kostopoulos was team captain at the time, and he remembers it being filled with ups and downs for Johnson.

“He was getting used to pro life after leaving school early, and his college team went on to win the national championship two years in a row,” Kostopoulos said. “He was watching from afar, and he was super happy for them and supporting them. But you could tell it hit him a little deep, too, because he was missing out on it.

“But to see him accomplish his dream, get to the NHL and play and score his NHL goal, I think that made it feel like it was worth it, and he accomplished what he was trying to do.”

Johnson’s game grew and took off the following season, and he earned a late callup to Pittsburgh after posting 18 goals in the AHL. Johnson made his debut on March 21, 2019 in Nashville, and what stood out immediately was his skating ability, as Adam always had NHL speed.

“There's some guys that, when you get out there with them, they can just flat out fly,” Crosby said. “He was one of them. He could motor out there. I remember skating with him for the first time, and that was the first thing that stood out.”

“He’s one of those kids you could picture out on a Minnesota lake, just skating all day with his hockey sweater kind of floating behind him,” Kostopoulos said.

An injury to Rust at the start of the 2019-20 campaign resulted in Johnson returning to Pittsburgh. He got the opportunity to play in front of family and friends when the Wild hosted the Penguins on Oct. 12, 2019 at Xcel Energy Center, and recorded his first NHL goal that night in a 7-4 win.

“I remember it well,” said Sam Lafferty, who earned the primary assist – his first NHL point – while Zach Aston-Reese earned the secondary assist. “Johnny made a nice play in the neutral zone to Zach and then he passed to me. I shot and the puck was kind of rolling, but Johnny made no mistake. Absolutely ripped it top shelf. I remember the look on his face, pure joy.

“All three of us came through Wilkes-Barre together, and we all felt that elation. On top of that, it felt like Johnny’s whole town was there in Minnesota. Something I’ll never forget.”

Johnson was immediately mobbed by his teammates who were on the ice with him. “I think I skated faster to him to celebrate than I skated up the ice on the breakout,” Aston-Reese joked. “We started our pro careers together. Me, him and Dips (Lafferty) were living out in Cranberry by ourselves. Just remember playing a lot of Monopoly at night to pass the time.”

Johnson’s teammates loved being around him, describing him as a calm, quieter guy who was always super nice.

“He was very humble, what you think of when you think of a Minnesota boy,” Kostopoulos said. “Loved the game of hockey, just wanted to get to the NHL. He was a really good teammate. He had a dry sense of humor that kind of threw guys off, but once you got to know him, he made a lot of guys laugh.”

“He’s a good jokester, and liked to just bring a smile around the room,” agreed P.O Joseph, who played a lot of tennis with Johnson in the bubble after the NHL returned to play following the COVID-related stoppage, which marked his last season in Pittsburgh. Johnson played a couple more years in the AHL before going to Europe to play professionally overseas, where his life tragically ended far too soon. He will always be part of the Penguins family, and Johnson’s teammates and coaches here in Pittsburgh – both past and present – extend their deepest condolences to Adam’s family.

“I want his family to know that we’re all in pain, and they’re in our thoughts and have our love and support,” Aston-Reese said. “We’re sure going to miss him,” Joseph said.