Photo Credit: Jasen Robbennolt/Sioux Falls Stampede
Sioux Falls Stampede defenseman Brent Johnson is a prospect eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, the 18-year old defenseman is making quite the name for himself in his draft year. Johnson has amassed 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in 43 games this season. Although the 2021 Draft seems to have a few talented defensemen at the top of the board, there’s no doubt that Johnson should be in the conversation near the top of the list. NHL Central Scouting did not list Johnson on their annual “Players to Watch” preseason list, he’s arguably had one of the biggest rises in 2020/21, especially as of late.
Johnson won USHL Defenseman of the Week in the beginning of January, which really seemed to spark his excellent play. Since winning the award, Johnson has tallied 15 of his 31 points on the season. Perhaps the most impressive part of his game is the fact he is useful and trustworthy in every zone on the ice. He’s as good clearing passing lanes in his own zone with an active stick as he is quarterbacking the powerplay.
This month, Johnson announced that he’s committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2022-23 season, becoming the first player from Texas to suit up for the Fighting Hawks. He’ll join fellow USHL alumni and future UND teammates Jason Blake and Tyler Dunbar in Grand Forks. Johnson will continue his development under the watchful eye of Head Coach Brad Berry, who has had success since taking over Head Coaching duties in 2015. Berry will no doubt be excited to coach such a young, talented defensive core in the seasons to come, that should include names such as Johnson, Scott Morrow, Jake Sanderson, Tyler Kleven and Cooper Moore.
D.O.B – March 20th, 2003
Nationality – USA
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Height – 5’11”
Weight – 165 lbs.
Position – Defense
Handedness – Right
Johnson’s Style Of Play
Johnson really is a do-it-all defenseman. He can play with skill and confidence in every single zone. In Johnson, you’re getting a player who is excellent in transition, who can quarterback a power-play, and who isn’t afraid to jump into the rush at any given opportunity.
In transition, Johnson prefers to hit teammates with a breakout pass as opposed to carrying the puck into the offensive zone by himself, or dumping the puck in. He can hit teammates in stride with short and medium-range passes, but could definitely brush up on his passing at long distances, as he tends to struggle a little bit with accuracy.
Check out this beautiful feed from Johnson to set up Luke Toporowski for a sweet goal:
As mentioned above, Johnson definitely isn’t afraid to jump into the rush, but perhaps more impressive, he can also backcheck with effectiveness and ease. It’s an uncommon occurrence to see him caught way out of position after charging up ice, as he’s usually made up the gap between the attacker and himself with his explosive backchecking speed.
One of my favourite traits of Johnson’s is his ability to quarterback Sioux Falls’ powerplay. Johnson has the perfect amount of discipline, patience and skill to create an effective breakout and zone entry, whether it comes off of his stick, or a teammate’s. Sioux Falls definitely trusts him with the man-advantage, as he sees a shade over three minutes of powerplay time a game, on average.
Johnson’s effectiveness on the powerplay is quite noticeable, from executing a breakout, right down to his ability to scope out a teammate down low with a pass, or send a wrist shot on net.
Arguably one of Johnson’s best traits is his skating, as he can accelerate in a phone booth, and he has one of the nicer strides among 2021 draft eligible defensemen. He does have more of an upright stride than most, but that doesn’t seem to hinder him much at all. Johnson also seems to have somewhat of a more narrow stance, both while accelerating as well as coasting.
When it comes to edgework, Johnson has some of the best when it comes to defenseman in the USHL. He’s able to escape pressure when pressing on in the offensive zone and elude defenders with great success. To add, Johnson can use his combination of excellent edges and his cat-like agility to navigate through all zones of the ice, which very few rookie defenders in the USHL can do.
Johnson’s most notable skating attribute just may be his ability to go “coast to coast” and still not look out of position. He can use his speed and stride to catch up to opponents on the counter attack after an offensive rush, and usually manage to get back and make a play on them in time. For his age, Johnson is an exceptional skater, and should only see this skill increase as he moves on to the next level in the seasons to come.
Johnson’s offensive ability is remarkable to say the least, as far as rookie defenseman in the USHL go. As previously mentioned, he loves to hop into the rush at any given chance, and can create some dangerous offensive chances for the Stampeders.
The way that Johnson can find open ice in the offensive zone and attempt a shot on goal is simply amazing. He can utilize his above average stickhandling skills to elude defenders and create new shooting lanes, or he can dish the puck off to a teammate across the zone. Johnson does have a tiny issue with a lot of his shots not reaching the goal, but that definitely can be cured with experience.
Johnson’s wrist shot is a thing of beauty, as he’s able to pick corners with a moderate amount of success. He also as a pretty quick shot release for a defenseman, which catches goalies off guard. His slapshot, however, could use a little work. That’s not to say it isn’t adequate, but it would be nice to see him utilize it more.
Johnson’s passing is another aspect of his offensive game that NHL teams will be sure to catch. He’s a very talented passer of the puck, especially when it comes to those crucial short/mid-range passes. As mentioned above, his long range passing could use some TLC, as he sometimes struggles with accuracy the longer the pass gets. We’ll cover more on that later on in the report.
Johnson, of course, is a pretty talented defender in every sense of the word. He can disrupt passing lanes and block shots with ease, and seems to have a knack for knocking the puck loose from attackers with his hyperactive stick. Johnson has no issue sacrificing the body to block a puck, or to force a turnover in the defensive zone.
One aspect of Johnson’s game that’s extremely underrated is his level of physicality. For his size (5’11, 165), he’s quite dominant, and can easily flatten attackers both in open ice and along the boards. He’s also not afraid to give net front attackers a difficult time, if they choose to stand in the slot.
Johnson is also very talented at defending the rush. He can force attackers out wide towards the boards, and can close them off with success. More often than not, he’s also able to force a turnover off that ability.
While there are copious amounts of things to love in Johnson’s game, he is still young and developing, meaning there is a few items he could benefit greatly from working on. Defensively, Johnson sometimes struggles with his board game when under pressure from attackers, which can lead to sloppy passes and turnovers. Other times, it seems as if he second guesses himself and gets caught flat-footed when trying to decide on chasing down an attacker, or standing guard in front of the net. Luckily, experience and some patience can play a huge role in correcting this, which should come with more ice time, both in the USHL and the NCAA.
Also, while Johnson is exceptionally good at finding open ice in the offensive zone, he does seem to have quite a few of his point shots deflected or blocked. He should look to find those weak zones in coverage when in open ice and exploiting them, which again comes with experience and ice time. On top of his shooting, Johnson could also use some work when it comes to his long distance passing. He has little to no issues at short and medium range, but he can have some difficulty with accuracy at longer ranges, i.e stretch breakout passes. Not to sound repetitive, but this issue should get better with experience and ice time.
Lastly, Johnson will most likely be looking to add some size to his 5’11, 165 lbs frame in the seasons to come, as he’ll more than likely need it, especially when he takes the ice for UND in 2022. As he’s only 18 and still growing, odds are he will add 15-20 lbs and maybe a couple inches to his frame by the time he’s ready for college hockey.
Overall, Brent Johnson definitely has “diamond in the rough” potential when it comes to 2021 Draft Eligible defenseman. He possesses a lot of the more desirable traits teams look for in an all-around defenseman. Johnson can be counted on in the defensive zone to make smart decisions, he is amazing in transition, and he’s above average at creating space and generating scoring chances in the offensive zone.
Only time will tell as to how successful Brent Johnson is at the next level, but as he progresses through the USHL ranks to the NCAA and beyond, it’s hard to see a path that doesn’t lead him to being an NHL-cailber defenseman someday. If he can continue to develop the skills that show so much promise, as well as work on a couple minor flaws in his game, he can truly become an effective, all situations-type defenseman in the NHL.
Based off of his attributes, look for Johnson to be selected somewhere in the early to middle second round of the draft. However, he has a strong chance to end up being selected at the tail end of the first round, if he can continue his lights-out play as of late.
Samuel Girard, D, Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
When I look at Brent Johnson as a defenseman, he strikes me in a similar mold as the 2016 2nd round pick of the Nashville Predators, Samuel Girard. Both Johnson and Girard play the position in a similar fashion, as each player is talented in all three zones of the ice. Johnson and Girard also both possess exceptional skating ability, quick releases on their shot, and a good eye for open lanes in the offensive zone.
Perhaps the most striking abilities that both defenders have is their offensive zone prowess and their effectiveness in transition. Johnson and Girard both jump into the rush when possible and can produce offensively, especially Girard, who is having a career year with the Avalanche.
If the team that selects Johnson in the 2021 NHL Draft can manage to have him develop into the type of player that Samuel Girard has developed into, it’s hard to imagine they would be anything but over the moon with their selection.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Paul Zuk. If you would like to follow Paul on Twitter, his handle is @paulzuk_81.
Looking for other scouting reports? Check out the Prospects tab for our other scouting reports.
Need a scouting report on a particular prospect, contact us today!