He may not yet be a household name among Pittsburgh Penguins fans, but after Sunday night Adam Johnson is officially an NHL contributor. The 24-year old rookie added two assists in the Penguins pivotal win against the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Sunday. The pair of assists were Johnson’s first two points of his NHL career and came on goals by his linemates Garrett Wilson and Matt Cullen.
Johnson has only played in five NHL games but has noticeably added speed to a fourth line that appears to be finding a groove just in time for the playoffs.
Johnson’s speed was prevalent on his second assist, too. Johnson hounded Carolina winger Justin Williams who attempted to transition to the Penguins zone. Instead, when the puck was poked off Williams stick by the Penguins defensemen, Johnson was in prime position for the loose puck.
Johnson chipped a little pass off the boards to Cullen for a two-on-one chance. Cullen wired a shot under Curtis McElhinney’s arm for a 2-0 lead.
After the game, Cullen talked proudly of his linemate and applauded the path Johnson took to the NHL.
“Ive been just so happy with [Johnson] on the wing,” said Cullen. “I’m just so happy for him, he is a great kid. He has earned everything he has gotten and he has that dynamic speed and he is so good at getting in on pucks. He is a fun player watch and its exciting to see him playing at the level he is. He is important to us.”
Even the Penguins top brass has noticed the contribution Johnson has given to the team. Head coach Mike Sullivan feels even if other people don’t notice Johnson, he does
“Adam Johnston has quietly done a nice job on the fourth line,” said Sullivan in his postgame comments. “He brings some speed, he gets in on the forecheck and creates some turnovers. He is responsible defensively and that is what we ask from guys on that line.”
Johnson joined the Penguins organization last spring after his senior season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Despite an impressive career in the developmental USHL league with Sioux City, he didn’t receive any draft considerations due to physical immaturity and a lack of drive against sub-par high school opponents.
Those knocks are from a long time ago. Before his call up on Mar. 20, Johnson was emerging with the WBS Penguins. In 63 games this season, he scored 18 goals and 22 assists.
Last week, Johnson talked with PHN’s Shelly Anderson about his team-first approach.