Photo: Rich Gagnon / UND athletics
We continue our Washington Capitals annual prospect review and forecast series with Brent Johnson, defenseman for the University of North Dakota. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page in the top menu or right here.)
Johnson, 19, is a 5’-11”, right-handed defenseman from Frisco, Texas. On the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Capitals chose Johnson with the 80th pick overall. The Capitals traded down from #75 to #80 in a deal with the New York Rangers. The Capitals also received the Rangers 176th overall pick in the deal. Johnson remains unsigned by the Capitals.
For the 2020-21 season, Johnson played for the Sioux Falls Stampede. He played in 47 games, scoring 11 goals and recording 21 assists for 32 points overall. He lead all defensemen on the team in goals, assists, and points.
His point total helped him break the team rookie record for points by a defenseman. He worked his way up on projected draft boards but then his season ended in April due to a shoulder injury. He was named to both the All Rookie Team and the All-USHL Second Team.
Johnson was the first player from Texas to sign up with the University of North Dakota program. He was a regular healthy scratch during the first half of the 2021-22 season, his freshman year at North Dakota, but slowly began to find playing time as the calendar turned to 2022.
2021-2022 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Brent Johnson during the 2021-2022 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Johnson started the season on October 8 on the right side of the third pair. He recorded no goals and one assist in five games played for North Dakota. He’s was a scratch in two games, and played on the right side of the third pair in five games. He’s recorded no shots so far this season.
Johnson was a healthy scratch for all four games of the first and second weekend of the month. He finally started the 12th game of the season against Minnesota-Duluth on the right side of the third pair. He was back to the scratches list on November 26th and 27th against the Minnesota Gophers.
After playing in five games in October, Johnson played in just three games in November. For the season, he has one assist and is a -2 on the ice. He’s taken no shots in the eight games he’s played and blocked two shots.
Johnson was a scratch for the first two weekends of the month (on December 3, 4, and 10, 11). Johnson’s playing time in his first semester was minimal. He played in eight of UND’s 19 games, often on the third defensive pairing or as the extra skater.
“I know there’s frustration and anxiety a little bit and things like that, but just having a past with two very good players that have been through our group here (Kiersted, Moore), you know that he’s going to come out the other side the same way,” Coach Berry said. “I think you have to have trust in what we do, and he does. He’s working extremely hard. We have a very high ceiling for him as far as what he can do in the future for us.”
Berry said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Johnson will get some opportunities immediately after Christmas.
“For him, it’s been probably not as much opportunity as he wanted in the beginning, but guess what, against USA Hockey and against Cornell, he’s going to be playing,” Berry said. “Hopefully, he can get a good body of work under him to get a good second-half start to it.”
“He’s very confident with the puck,” Berry said about Johnson. “He knows the next play. He’s very competitive. He’s got some high-end ability in his game. Once he gets acclimated to the pace and heaviness of our league, I think he’ll be well on his way. It takes a little time for everybody. Everybody’s a little bit different on their acclimation into the NCHC.”
Johnson suffered an injury while playing in the USHL last season and needed surgery in the spring. His shoulder operation prevented him from addressing his biggest area of need in the offseason — strength-building.
Johnson continues to see mostly scratches, which isnt too uncommon for a freshman on a powerhouse hockey team like North Dakota. For the month of January, Johnson saw action in two games. For the season Johnson has an assist in 10 games played. Hopefully more playing time awaits Johnson in the near future and this fall.
Johnson made his first start of the month on February 4 against Omaha and also played the following night, both games at 3RD. He played in eight games in February and the freshman looked solid in the two games we watched.
Offensively he scored his first collegiate goal on February 12 against Colorado College.
Grab that puck! Congrats, Brent! #UNDproud | #LGH pic.twitter.com/u4746J9XhT
— North Dakota MHockey (@UNDmhockey) February 13, 2022
For the season Johnson has a goal and an assist in 18 games played. Good progress for the Freshman, so far this season.
During the month of March, Johnson played in five games for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. These games included the last two games of the regular season, one game in the NCHC Quarterfinals, one game in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and one game in the NCAA Tournament. All quality starts for the “Frisco Kid”.
He scored a goal against Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament on March 24. It was the first goal of the game in a game that the Fighting Hawks lost 2-1 in Overtime.
Brent Johnson’s (#ALLCAPS) seeing eye shot from the blue line gives North Dakota a 1-0 lead over Notre Dame late in the first period.
Jackson Kunz (#Canucks) with the primary assist on the play. pic.twitter.com/NFeTsQqtKk
— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) March 24, 2022
That ended his hockey season. Over the course of the season, he was thrust into a bigger role down the stretch as injuries mounted. For the season, he played in 23 games for the Fighting Hawks where he scored two goals and recorded one assist.
All-in-all a good solid freshman season for Johnson. He should get plenty more starts next season.
Johnson’s season ended in March. During the month of March, Johnson played in five games for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. These games included the last two games of the regular season, one game in the NCHC Quarterfinals, one game in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff, and one game in the NCAA Tournament. All quality starts for the “Frisco Kid”.
As noted in the season summary above, Johnson was a regular healthy scratch during the first half of the 2021-22 season, his freshman year at North Dakota, but slowly began to find playing time as the calendar turned to 2022. Johnson’s top eight ice times this season all came in the final eight weeks, and that is likely to continue into his sophomore campaign.
Injuries to other defensemen led to some of that increased ice time for Johnson. But the Fighting Hawks had seven defensemen available for the regional game against the Fighting Irish and continued to go back to Johnson.
UND head coach Brad Berry said Johnson handled the ups and downs of his freshman season well and he’s excited for the potential growth for next season.
“You never know how that’s going to go, but you control your attitude, work ethic and the choices you make every day,” Berry said. “He’s been outstanding on all three of them. He’s already back here on his own, working out, doing his things. He hasn’t skipped a beat since the day we got beat out. That tells you he’s all in.”
Johnson has high-end offensive abilities both skating and handling the puck. He needs to continue working on his defensive game and his physical strength — perhaps his most deficient area as a freshman.
Johnson is small by nature, 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, (many similarities to Bobby Nardella) and he was unable to lift weights last summer because of offseason shoulder surgery.
By Jon Sorensen
Capitals select defenseman Brent Johnson in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft
Deep Dive: A Closer Look at Capitals Draft Pick Brent Johnson
Very similar traits to Nardella. Sub six foot, more offense than defense.
Good skater and puck handler. You wonder how these guys end up playing defense.
Not many freshman play at UND (or D1 in general). Maybe he could have used another USHL season but overall good growth path. We have good size right dee in Maas and Has so good balance. I still like this draft pick and hopefully he has 2 years at UND before going to Hershey for next jump. Look for Caps to make a decision on signing him after his sophomore year.
Lets see how the soph season goes and then act accordingly. Maybe, just maybe, he an be Orlovs replacement in a few years.