Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Wyatt Johnston is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Toronto (Leaside), Ontario. For those unfamiliar with the Leaside neighborhood of Toronto, it sits next to the Ontario Science Centre and the Don Valley Parkway.
His older sister, Quinn Johnston plays hockey for Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
In his youth hockey days, Johnston played for the Toronto Marlboros in GTHL (Greater Toronto Hockey League). He played U15 AAA and U16 AAA hockey for the Marlboros. Johnston played alongside quite a few 2020, 2021 and 2022 draft eligible prospects. He played with Jack Beck (2021, Ottawa 67’s), Ethan Del Mastro (2021, Mississauga Steelheads), Tucker Robertson (2021, Peterborough Petes), Artem Guryev (2021, Peterborough Petes), Danny Zhilkin (2022, Guelph Storm), Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks) and Will Cuylle (New York Rangers).
Following his 2018-2019 season, in which he was fifth in the GTHL U16 in scoring with 94 points in 73 games, he was drafted in the 2019 OHL Priority Draft at sixth overall by the Windsor Spitfires.
In his 2019-2020 season, Johnston made his OHL debut and joined his former teammate, Will Cuylle in Windsor. He tallied 12 goals and 18 assists in 53 games for the Spitfires.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Johnston didn’t play in any league games for Windsor in 2020-2021. But, he was part of Canada’s squad at the 2021 IIHF U18 World Championships in Plano, Texas and Frisco, Texas. In seven tournament games, he recorded four points (two goals and two assists).
D.O.B – May 14, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –176 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Johnston’s Style Of Play
In the offensive zone, Johnston has proven that he can be a crafty passer. In the U18 game against Belarus, he fired a saucer cross-ice pass to get the puck away from traffic in the lane near the blue-line to get the puck in the hands of Olen Zellweger. The saucer pass allowed Johnston to get the puck over the attacker’s stick blade and over to his defenseman. That ended up leading to a Zellweger assist.
Aside from cross-ice saucer passes, he will draw defenders towards him and thus opens up a shooting lane for his defenseman from the point. With the defender shifted over to him, he quickly completed a backhand pass to the point. He will also pick up loose pucks when he is playing an insurance forechecking role and complete a backhand cross slot pass.
In his gameplay with Windsor in 2019-2020, I noticed more creativity from Johnston, which makes sense due to the much larger sample size. He produced tape-to-tape passes with his back turned to the net for primary assists. Johnston completed passes off the rush to teammates in the low slot for assists.
Not only is he a crafty passer, but you will see him excel at getting out of 3 on 1 traps at the half-wall and fires a pass to the point. Johnston uses quick pivots to shifts around the attack. While he relies on pivots, he doesn’t lean on fancy stick-work to undermine the attack.
On the rush, he will struggle against the more physically gifted defenders. For instance, his faced tough pressure from Simon Edvinsson and David Jiříček at the 2021 U18s. He wasn’t able to push them off with his upper body and play around them. Yet, Johnston learned quickly after a few shifts of playing them man-to-man that he was far more likely to find success in the offensive zone if he cut at the perimeter instead of trying to play them one-on-one down low.
Ideally I’d like to see Johnston be more assertive on the forecheck. When he is pursuing the puck carrier, he tends to be slower than the carrier. He gives the attacker too much time to assess the situation on the ice and make a decision on which teammate he should pass to in order to instill the breakout. In addition, when on the forecheck and the attacker pivots out, his reaction time is a tad slow and won’t stay toe-to-toe with the puck carrier. Yet, we did some a couple of glimpses of tight pressured forechecking at the U18s. It wasn’t consistent, but for instance, in the game against the Czech Republic, Johnston deployed quality tight forechecking pressure against Stanislav Svozil.
While Johnston has a bit of development to do on his forechecking, he consistently will utilize an active stick. He will extend his stick out to keep the puck carrier from skating to the blue-line and will attempt to push the puck away from the carrier. Johnston’s stick-handing and active stick doesn’t lead to a lot of stolen possession situations. Instead, Johnston becomes a nuisance for puck carriers.
Keep in mind that Johnston’s forechecking is prevalent when the offensive unit isn’t working the cycle. When they are working the cycle, Johnston will sit at the red line or in the face-off circles in an insurance capacity. But, he will go to the boards to provide support when his teammates are in tight pressured puck battles.
Occasionally, he will struggle to time loose pucks. He’ll mistime the puck, it’ll slip through his fingers and he will fail to keep the puck in the offensive zone. He also need to further round out his stick-handling. Johnston offers decent stick-handling in the offensive zone, but needs to be cautious of his reach as he will try to play the puck too far in front of him and that leads to bobbling pucks.
When it comes to Johnston’s goal scoring ability, you will notice that the majority of his goals come at net-front. He enjoys crashing the net. Johnston will collect rebound goals and look to fool the goaltender with a deke at the edge of the crease.
But, he has shown that he has range with his shot. In his 2019-2020 play with the Windsor Spitfires, he scored a few goals from medium and low danger. Delivered snap shot goals from just inside the perimeter and one-timer goals from medium danger.
Similarly to his forechecking role, Johnston plays an insurance role in the defensive zone when his teammates are working the back check down low. But, he will drop to the red line to survey the cycle behind the net. He won’t exert face-to-face pressure, but sits and waits incase of a wrap around attempt or incase the puck carrier decides to dabble into medium danger. When at the perimeter, he likes blocking shots and tries to take up as much room as possible when facing low danger shots from outside the perimeter. When he attempts to play closer to the vest, he doesn’t assert dominance and implement tight pressure when he’s the only defender around the attack. Instead, he will lean on his poke-checking. But, like his forechecking, don’t expect Johnston to come away with possession off of a poke-check. He will extend his stick out to interfere with puck movement.
One of the areas in the defensive zone that needs further development is his reaction time. At times, his reaction timing is slow compared to other prospects in the class and his timing will open up passing lanes for the attack as he will lose pace with his pressure. But, that is mainly when he is facing is faster competition. On an even playing field, against comparable speed, he will display good reaction time and will keep a toe-to-toe pace with his pivots.
Ultimately, Johnston thrives at collecting defensive recoveries on loose pucks, grabbing possession and keying up the rush. If he picks up the puck along the boards and has traffic in front of him, he will look to throw the puck up the boards to help start a rush.
Johnston is a straight line skater when in stride, will use two lengthier extensions to net appropriate speed and shorten up following. For the most part, when deploying lengthy skate extensions, he will display quality ankle flexion. But, occasionally, you will see inconsistent ankle flexion on shorter skate extensions.
When on the forecheck and in transition, Johnston will rely heavily on his edges. Over time, I’d like to see more of a balance and see Johnston insert crossovers to help drive acceleration.
His edge work needs some fine tuning. There are times where he will be switching from his inside edges to forward skating stride and at the same time he was extending his stick out to attempt to grab possession of a loose puck, but lost balance due to his footing. In addition, when completing open ice hits, he will struggle with outside edges and his skates will line up in a t-stop formation rather than parallel outside edges.
Johnston has shown that he is defensively responsible from a transitional perspective. If a puck gets dumped out of the offensive zone, he will chase down the puck in the neutral zone. For the majority of the time that Johnston is defending in transition, he will play from behind. While he isn’t putting consistent pressure in front of the rush, he still finds ways to stop the rush. You will notice neutral zone pass deflections and puck battles by extending his stick out to catch the attack off guard.
When facing the rush, I would like to see Johnston work on reaction timing. Similar to what I brought up with his defensive play. Sometimes he will be slightly late when adjusting to puck movement.
From a physical perspective, Johnston does play a physical game along the boards when looking to circumvent the rush. But, needs to acquire the necessary upper body strength to be physically intimidating.
When his team is moving the puck up the ice, more than often, Johnston is keying up the rush rather than completing controlled zone entries. But, you will see a few controlled zone entries from Johnston in each game.
With the proper development, Johnston is a bottom six forward at the NHL level.
If he acquires the physicality and the reaction timing, you are looking at a true bottom six guy with playmaking ability down low.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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!