The Buffalo Sabres were running out of time to get 2019 first-round pick Ryan Johnson signed before he became eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but on Saturday the club announced that they had agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract with the blueliner, which will begin with the start of the 2023-24 season.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) May 27, 2023
Johnson was selected 31st overall by the Sabres in 2019 and had 18 points in his senior season at the University of Minnesota, where he received All-Big Ten honorable mention selections, three straight selections to the Academic All-Big Ten Team, and compiled 59 points (9 goals, 50 assists) in 143 NCAA games for the Golden Gophers. He also won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2021 World Junior Championship.
The 21-year-old is the son of former NHLer and current Anaheim assistant coach Craig Johnson, who played 557 games with St. Louis, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Toronto, and Washington, and played for Team USA at the 1984 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
Johnson will report to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, who are currently playing the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final. Since Johnson’s two-year ELC begins at the start of next season, he will be signed to a professional tryout contract to make him eligible to play It is unclear at this point whether Johnson will see action at any point as 2022 top pick Matthew Savoie did on Thursday or just practice with the club as first-rounder Noah Ostlund has since joining the AHL affiliate earlier this month.
Rochester head coach Seth Appert indicated on Saturday that they are working on getting Johnson to Rochester as soon as possible, which could be an indication that he could be utilized at some point.
— Greg Vorse (@GregVorse) May 27, 2023
Johnson was described by Hockey Prospect.com’s Black Book in his draft year as “one of the most fluid skaters in the draft class. He has effortless, multi-directional mobility with first-step quickness, terrific edgework, and the ability to stop and turn against the flow of pressure easily and punctually. His escapability and poise with the puck makes him a calming presence in chaotic situations. The hockey sense is there in spades. He thinks and feels the game very well.”
It was thought that Johnson might see his road to the NHL blocked with the Sabres, with Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, and Owen Power all left-handed shots, but the fact that Dahlin and Power played the right side at times last season may have been a factor in Johnson choosing to sign.