Born October 18, 2002, in the affluent neighbourhood of North Vancouver, BC, is prospect Kent Johnson. Johnson, a potential lottery pick in the upcoming 2021 National Hockey League draft, has been turning heads on the West Coast with his talent since he was 15 years old.
Making a mark
At 15, Johnson played for the illustrious Burnaby Winter Club Academy, where he amassed 75 points in 27 games against players as much as three years older than him. However, by the end of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League season in 2017-18, Johnson’s combination of smooth skating and lethal playmaking landed him an affiliate spot with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
BWC student-athlete Kent Johnson will be joining the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters this weekend. pic.twitter.com/ZAdJDQrIjy
— BWC Academy (@BWCAcademy) December 1, 2017
Still only 15 years old, Kent suited up for a pair of games in December of the Smoke Eaters’ 2017-18 campaign. Although Johnson didn’t produce any points, the Smoke Eaters staff and Trail community knew they had their hands on a potential superstar.
In his first full season in the BCHL in 2018-19, Johnson started to come into his own. With a solid 20-goal, 46 point season, Johnson was second on the roster in scoring as a 16-year-old.
Midway through his freshman campaign, he secured his NCAA future with a commitment to the University of Michigan.
Unfortunately for Johnson and the Smoke Eaters, they finished last in the Interior Division that season with a record of 23-24-8. However, to the surprise of many and thanks to Johnson’s explosive playoff point-per-game average, the Smoke Eaters stunned the second place Meritt Centennials in five games.
Trail matched up against a tough Vernon team in the Interior semifinals and battled it out for seven games before losing the do-or-die match-up 5-2. The Vipers kept Johnson in check for the first two games of the series as well as game four and he still finished with six points in the best-of-seven.
Cementing his greatness
In his final season of BCHL action, Johnson was the 2019-20 Smoke Eaters alternate captain, and boy, did that decision pay dividends because he went off! In 52 games, Johnson produced 41 goals and 101 points, which topped the entire league that season.
Johnson was named the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top forward that year and garnered some strong attention for the 2021 World Junior Championships.
Even in a first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Prince George Spruce Kings, Johnson was dominant with seven points in four games.
During this past season for the Wolverines, Johnson was an absolute diamond on a stacked roster that featured the likes of NHL prospects Cameron York, John Beecher, and Thomas Bordeleau.
Johnson finished second in scoring with 27 points in 26 games, only behind Bordeleau’s 30 points. Johnson’s totals put him above teammates Owen Power and Matthew Beniers, who are also ranked among the top prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft.
A top tier talent
Many BCHL fanatics are excited to see what the future holds for the promising young gun. To start, Johnson has drawn many comparisons to Colorado’s Alex Newhook due to the fact the two have had very similar playing careers.
ADD THOSE TO THE TROPHY CASE!
Smoke Eaters forward Kent Johnson named BCHL’s Most Valuable Player and Most Sportsmanlike while goaltending Logan Terness is named BCHL Rookie of the Year!!
— Trail Smoke Eaters (@BCHLSmokeEaters) February 26, 2020
Both exceeded the 100-point plateau at least once in their time in the BCHL. They also both went onto great NCAA careers.
However, the one significant difference between Johnson and Newhook is size. Newhook stands at 5-foot-8l, below the NHL average of 6-foot-1, which Johnson is currently measured.
Also, given that Johnson will be freshly 19 at the start of the 2021-22 season, there is plenty of time for the young man to grow. Johnson has played in 135 games between the BCHL and NCAA in the last three seasons.
In those three seasons, Johnson has recorded 174 points which are enough for about a 1.3 points-per-game average since he was 16.
Johnson is expected to be a top 10 talent at this year’s draft and with such an excellent track record, it is no surprise why. Johnson possesses elite-level skating and puck handling and draws comparisons with Mitchell Marner and a circa 2006 Maxim Afinogenov.
In addition, Johnson has the ability to become a human highlight reel. However, to improve his game for the NHL level, Johnson will need to work on his goal-scoring and shot.
With a lethal shot, Johnson has the potential to become a Patrick Kane-type player. He is also productive at both ends and can help out defensively when needed to, making him a complete 200-foot player.
For any team picking in the 7-10 range, Johnson could quite possibly be the steal of the 2021 NHL Draft. In fact, his hometown Vancouver Canucks will likely pick in that range.
Canucks fans are desperate for a hometown hero to represent the team. With Troy Stecher leaving town as a free agent last year and Jake Virtanen’s future with Vancouver uncertain, maybe Johnson fills the void.
The first round of the NHL Draft is set for July 23 and takes place virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.