It’s a moment that growing up, young hockey players can only dream of.
“Yeah, I’ve dreamt of it my whole life, it doesn’t really feel real.”
In two months, it could become a reality for Stampede defenseman Ryan Johnson, hearing his name called in the NHL draft.
“We picked him up as a young talented kid, it certainly doesn’t hurt any that he played here in Sioux Falls,” said Stampede Head Coach Scott Owens.
“It’s cool but honestly you never know until the draft comes. It will be special if it happens, but either way I’ve got to work hard and still have a lot of way to go in order to like accomplish my dream of playing in the NHL. If you weren’t nervous, you wouldn’t be normal, but I’m obviously nervous but it will be a relief if a team calls your name, so that’s just what I’m hoping for and working for,” said Johnson.
The 17-year-old is projected as a late first round pick on June 21st, something a Stampede player hasn’t done since Kieffer Bellows in 2016.
“He’s just one of those young guys that got better and better as the year went on. You know, and so he can break the puck out, he can defend well, he’s got some offense to his game, he’s just a real good young defensemen,” said Owens.
Ryan’s love for the game started at a young age, growing up in a hockey family in California.
“I started skating when I was around like three years old, my dad got me on skates and about when I was six years old, I started playing in house team or whatever and I’ve loved it ever since,” said Johnson.
His dad Craig spent 14 years playing in the NHL, and now works in the Los Angeles Kings organization, but he also coached Ryan all the way until coming to Sioux Falls.
“I kind of developed my own passion for the game, but my dad obviously started it. He coached me all the way until last year I was 16, always was hard on me and pushed me so it was always nice to have your dad as a coach,” said Johnson.
His father started his career playing collegiately at the University of Minnesota. Ryan will follow in his footsteps and also play for the Gophers.
“I did follow the Gophers a lot, but honestly it was more of my choice, but honestly it’s cool following his footsteps a little,” said Johnson.
But Ryan isn’t looking too far ahead to this dream just yet. He first wants to help his team in the Clark Cup Playoffs.
“I’m most excited about just ending this year with this group of guys and playing for a Clark Cup championship. So I think that will be really special, and hopefully we can win it because that would be amazing. But honestly it’s just one step at a time right now,” said Johnson.
Johnson and the Stampede start a first round best of three playoff series against Sioux City on Tuesday night at 7:05 at the Premier Center.