The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed another talented but undrafted NCAA free agent. Like Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel, Johnson was overlooked because of his size. Adding another talented young forward with a chip on his shoulder is a continuation of the formula that has brought the Penguins the best scoring depth in the league and in turn, back to back Stanley Cups. If you don’t know by now, Pittsburgh is the unofficial home of college hockey in the NHL. The success of young players like Rust, Guentzel, Sheary, Wilson, and even Justin Schultz is proof that Pittsburgh is the very best at developing college talent.
Top college scorer Zach Aston-Reese recently had his choice of any team in the league, and he chose the Penguins. This speaks volumes to the reputation that Pittsburgh is getting throughout the NCAA. If you want the best chance at being a successful NHL player, sign with Pittsburgh.
However, the undrafted Johnson took a different path than Aston-Reese in getting to Pittsburgh. Johnson recently attended the Penguins development camp, where has so impressive that earned himself a two-year contract. Diamond in the rough finds like this are what allow the Penguins to continue to have a strong prospect pool, despite their lack of high picks in the NHL draft.
Johnson scored 18 goals and 37 points last season in his sophomore year at Minnesota Duluth. He can play all three forward positions but he projects as an NHL winger. His biggest strength according to college scouts is his explosive skating, which should mesh perfectly in Pittsburgh. Johnson was undrafted because of his small size and a lack of toughness. That reminds me a lot of some guys that are already scoring big goals in the Penguins organization.
All in all, the Penguins got another talented college forward that was overlooked due to his size. Johnson will likely spend next year in Wilkes Barre to develop, but with the amount of injuries the Penguins suffer, there’s always a chance he could see the NHL.
It’s a good time to be a Pittsburgh Penguins fan.