A highly-touted Port Moody hockey player has made it to the big leagues.
Kent Johnson is now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets after the team selected him at the 2021 NHL Draft, which went virtual a second consecutive year resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 18-year-old was taken fifth overall in the first round today (July 23). In 2010, fellow Port Moody product Ryan Johansen was selected fourth overall also by the Jackets, while brother Lucas Johansen was drafted 28th by Washington in 2016.
Johnson was ranked third among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final report — a list of the best available and eligible players put together by scouts and hockey personnel — after posting 27 points in 26 games in his NCAA freshman campaign with the University of Michigan.
Johnson's breakout performance had him second among Big Ten Conference rookies and the entire Wolverines' roster.
"I definitely thought I could've gotten picked a little bit earlier than maybe what some of the media showed," he told NHL Network after his selection of his final ranking before the draft.
"I wasn't too surprised, but definitely, you know, anything could happen, so I was super fired up when I got picked."
Johnson was also one of three Michigan teammates to go in the top five — Owen Power went first overall to the Buffalo Sabres while Matthew Beniers was the Seattle Kraken's first-ever draft pick at the number-two slot for the expansion club.
This was a rare feat for the NHL and Johnson says he's looking forward to hitting the ice against his teammates.
"It was so exciting for all of us to go in the top five and I can't wait to be playing with those guys."
During his short NHL Network interview, Johnson didn't mention if he had plans to go back to Michigan to tune his game before making the jump to the pros.
In 2019-20, he made headlines across the continent in recording BCHL league-leading 101 points in 52 games with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
Earlier this week, Johnson was invited alongside 51 players — six from B.C. — to train and develop at Hockey Canada's summer camp for its national under-20 team.
It's the start of a path that could see him in a red maple leaf sweater at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton and Red Deer.