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Port Moody's Kent Johnson making his case for a return to the NHL

Kent Johnson, 21, was sent to the Cleveland Monsters in the American Hockey League on Nov. 3.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kent Johnson splits the Vancouver Canucks defence in his first NHL game in Vancouver last January.

Port Moody’s Kent Johnson is making his case to return to the National Hockey League (NHL).

The 21-year-old has 10 points in the six games he’s played for the Cleveland Monsters since he was sent to the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Saturday, Nov. 18, he scored a goal and added three assists in the Monsters' 7-5 loss to the Rochester Americans.

Johnson, who was selected fifth overall by the Blue Jackets in the 2021 NHL entry draft, was sent to Cleveland Nov. 3 after scoring just three points in his first eight games of the season. He’d also been scratched from Columbus’ starting lineup twice and he was benched through the third period of his last start with the NHL team on Nov. 2.

In Johnson’s first full season with the Blue Jackets in 2022-23, he totalled 16 goals and 24 assists in 74 games.

In an interview on a Columbus radio station, Blue Jackets’ director of hockey operations John Davidson said Johnson needs to enjoy playing again.

“He’s way up on our list as far as our future goes. We love the kid and he’s going to be with us.”

Coquitlam Express grad making saves in the AHL

Former Coquitlam Express goalie Clay Stevenson is among the top backstops in the AHL.

Stevenson signed as a free agent with the Washington Capitals in March 2022 after completing his second season at Dartmouth College.

He’s allowed just 14 goals in eight games with the Hershey Bears, the Capitals’ minor-league affiliate, this season.

Stevenson’s three shutouts are tops in the league and his 1.76 goals against average is third amongst all its goalies.

He also had two chances to pull on a Capitals’ jersey when he was promoted to back up Washington netminder Charlie Lindgren for the team’s first game of the NHL season as veteran Darcy Kuemper was with his wife for the birth of the couple’s first child, and again a few days later when Lindgren was injured.

Stevenson played three seasons with the Express prior to heading to Dartmouth. He won 30 of the 35 games he played in the 2019-20 season, leading the team to the top of the BC Hockey League regular season standings. But he was unable to help Coquitlam in the subsequent playoffs because of an obscure NCAA rule that aged him out of junior hockey when he turned 21 just prior to their commencement so he could retain his full eligibility for college.

Stevenson did stay with the team to mentor players through the post-season that was ultimately cut short after a first-round sweep of the Langley Rivermen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Express expand development program

The Express is expanding its program for developing future players.

Friday the BCHL team announced it will be adding U14, U15 and U17 teams to the U18 team it already operates in the Junior Prospects Hockey League.

The Express started its Coquitlam HC program after a decision by the BCHL last summer to operate independent of Hockey Canada’s governance, preventing teams from developing players through affiliate relationships with teams in leagues sanctioned by the national organization.

“This expansion will allow us to provide more opportunities for young players in the community to compete, develop and pursue their dreams in the sport they love,” said Express general manager and chief operating officer Tali Campbell in a news release.

There’s currently 10 teams from B.C. and Alberta operating in the JPHL’s U18 circuit; seven of them also have teams in the younger age divisions.