By Warren Kozireski —
The college playing career of Buffalo Sabres 2019 first round draft choice Ryan Johnson came to an end this weekend as the senior defenseman helped lead the top-ranked University of Minnesota to the Frozen Four championship game.
The 6’0”, 170 lb. left shot assistant captain was named an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and the Golden Gophers Sportsmanship Award after his four goal-14 assist campaign.
His statistics (nine goals and 50 assists over 141 career games) with Minnesota might not jump off the page to the casual fan, but he finished third in the Big Ten conference in blocked shots with 62 over 37 games and tied for eighth in plus/minus at +21.
And he has played in every single game in college with the exception of the four games he missed in 2021 while helping Team USA win a gold medal at the U-20 World Juniors.
Prior to college, Johnson was named to the United States Hockey League (USHL)’s All-Rookie Team as he helped Sioux Falls win a third Clark Cup championship in 2018-19.
Easily overlooked, but Johnson has all the ingredients winning teams want on their blueline, including in the final three minutes protecting a one-goal lead.
“Obviously it’s been exciting…and more time with these guys has been a blast,” Johnson said prior to the title game. “We’ve had such a fun year and it’s just been amazing. Being in this place we’re thankful.”
Minnesota lost in the national semi-finals last year, but Johnson denies that being a primary motivator for him or his teammates this season.
“I wouldn’t say it was a motivation; I don’t think losing is my motivation. I play for God at the end of the day and, whether we win or lose, I’m grateful that I have hope and I know it’s part of his plan that we’re here and in this position.
Born in California when his dad, Craig, was playing in the NHL, Johnson is a product of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks system.
After the Frozen Four title game, Johnson has a decision to make whether to sign a professional contract with Buffalo or become a free agent.
But he is taking in every moment of the final minutes of his college career prior to that.
“It’s kind of hard; each time I kind of see it. You don’t really realize that this could be the last game or whatever, so it’s not really crossing my mind until after.
(University of Minnesota Athletics/Hockey Photos)