Red Deer Rebels Captain Reese Johnson will join the Chicago Blackhawks once the season wraps up.
The 20-year-old Saskatoon native inked a three-year, entry-level contract worth $925,000 annually with Chicago Wednesday.
“I’m excited. I’m just thankful for the opportunity and want to do my best I can there and grow as a player. I’ll do everything I can for their organization.”
He says he thinks the biggest aspects of his game the Blackhawks like are the small but important things.
“I think my work ethic and competitiveness I bring to my game — doing all the little things right,” he says.
“Scoring is nice but I think that is secondary in my game. Doing all the small things, like winning faceoffs, checks and blocking shots are what they like.”
Johnson, who has 22 goals and 45 points in 62 games, will be joining team member Brandon Hagel, who signed with Chicago last Fall. Both forwards will play through the 2021-22 season.
“It’s pretty awesome. I was talking to Brent (Sutter) about that yesterday and it obviously doesn’t happen very often where two 20-year-olds sign to the same team, so it’s exciting. He’s a good guy. He’s fun to play with. He creates lots on the ice. He’s a good player, it’s exciting.”
NHL contracts aside, the forward says he’s focused on helping get the Rebels to the playoffs right now.
With 68 points, Red Deer is tied with the Brandon Wheat Kings for the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with six games left.
While on the road during the Canada Winter Games, the Rebels went on a four-game losing streak, their playoff hopes dwindling.
“We went through a little rough stretch there. While we were in that rough patch, I wasn’t as happy with my game and I knew I had another level,” he said.
But with two home games this weekend, one against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday and a Saturday game against the Kootenay ICE, he feels hopeful.
“It has been going good — we’ve just got to get back on track and get a couple wins this weekend.”
Looking ahead, Johnson says he has worked hard as a junior ice hockey player and is excited about the next step.
“It’s a dream come true to do it and now the real work starts.”