'They believed in me'
Ross Johnston will be an Islander after this season ends - a New York Islander.
The 21-year-old Suffolk native signed a three-year, entry-level contract on Monday and the NHL team announced the deal on Tuesday.
The Charlottetown Islanders' winger went to New York's training camp in the fall. It was there he broke his jaw during a fight in an exhibition game with the Boston Bruins. It sidelined him for two months of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season.
Johnston said New York stuck by him despite the injury, which meant a lot to him.
"It was a no-brainer for me to go back with New York," he said. "They believe in me."
Johnston had 18 goals and 14 assists for 32 points along with 124 penalty minutes in 44 games with Charlottetown this season.
They acquired the power forward along with blue-liner Luc Deschenes in a trade with Victoriaville that sent defenceman Julien Leduc and forward Yan-Pavel Laplante to the Tigres.
"He's had a major impact on our hockey team," general manager Grant Sonier said.
The impact includes being a veteran leader for a young, skilled squad, but also his play on the ice.
"You also need guys who play in the trenches," Sonier said. "He's an intimidating force."
The six-foot-five, 225-pound winger showed it again during Monday's playoff victory over the Sherbrooke Phoenix. While he didn't have a point a league official deemed all three of his shots dangerous and he had a game-high six hits.
"He's been a big man that can really skate," Sonier said.
And that, he added, is a credit to the work he has put in to improve that aspect of his game during the off-season.
"I'm really, really proud of him," Sonier said.
Johnston said the trade back to his home province has been great for him.
"I got all the playing time in the world here," he said. "I can't thank them enough."
Between 15 and 18 teams inquired about Johnston's services during the season.
Johnston said he thought about those closest to him when signing the contract. It included his parents Frank and Shirley, brother Will and sister Katherine.
Both his siblings played hockey and Ross noted him and Katherine were on the same team until bantam.
"They've always been there, no matter what," Ross said of his family. "I can't thank them enough and that's who I am going to give all the credit too."
Who - A 21-year-old Suffolk native playing his final year of junior hockey with the Charlottetown Islanders.
The latest - Signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract on Monday with the New York Islanders. The news was announced Tuesday morning.
Style of play - Johnston said he is a power forward and he compares his game to NHLers like Matt Martin (Islanders), Bryan Bickell (Chicago Blackhawks), Dwight King (Los Angles Kings).
Why No. 48? Johnston was 17 years old when he was called up to the Moncton Wildcats while playing with the Summerside Western Capitals. He was asked what number he wanted on his jersey. "I wasn't too picky. I was just excited to get called up," Johnston recalled. There was a uniform with No. 48 on it, Johnston tried it and wore the number ever since.
Season Team GP G A Pts. PIM
2014-15 Charlottetown 44 18 14 32 124
2013-14 Victoriaville 60 10 15 25 139
2012-13 Moncton 53 12 15 27 96