Nick Johnson ’08 to play for the Coyotes
By Sam Rauschenfels, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012
After playing for the 2011-2012 season with the Minnesota Wild, Nick Johnson ’08 — former captain of the Dartmouth men’s hockey team — signed a year-long contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Johnson, who was originally chosen to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round of the 2004 National Hockey League draft, will begin training with the Coyotes in September, according to Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving.
Johnson will play right wing with the Coyotes — a “natural position” for him, according to Treliving.
Johnson’s contract is a “two-way” deal, which pays him more for playing in the NHL. Were Johnson to drop down to the minor leagues, he would make less and play fewer games each season.
“We’ve watched him the last few years,” Treliving said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “We’re excited to have him join our organization.”
Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Johnson came to Dartmouth after his 2004 draft pick and played for four years at the College, where he earned high rankings among offensive players.
Johnson scored 35 points his freshman year, the third highest of any Dartmouth freshman since the 1977-1978 season.
“He’s a big guy who can move well,” Treliving said.
After Dartmouth, Johnson played a short time in the minor leagues before being called up to the Penguins for some games of the 2009-2010 NHL season, he said. He was out of commission for a few months due to a bad concussion and, upon his re-signing with Pittsburgh, was in line to be sent back to the minors.
Instead, the Wild picked him up and signed him to continue playing in the NHL for the 2011-2012 season.
Owing to a strong start with the Wild, Johnson earned a spot in the 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend as part of the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition, held Jan. 28 in Ottawa.
Dartmouth men’s hockey coach Robert Gaudet spoke positively about Johnson’s time at the College, during which he played all three forward positions for the men’s team.
“He was a great player and a really skilled forward,” Gaudet said. “He did really well on the ice as a skilled player and a leader.”
Gaudet recalled Johnson’s leading role in a game against the University of New Hampshire, when, in front of a stadium of about 10,000 fans, Johnson scored the game-winning goal in the last minute of play.
Gaudet said that Johnson has done well after Dartmouth, citing his ability to stay in the NHL as a sign of success.
Johnson achieved multiple career highs while playing with the Wild, including goals, assists, points, penalty minutes and games played.
Off the ice, Johnson worked hard at the College, according to Gaudet. Johnson majored in psychology and strove for high marks.
Johnson said he “took pride” in his schoolwork and worked to raise his GPA after a “rough start.”
“I wanted to keep doing better at that,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that playing hockey at Dartmouth “helped a lot” with his skills, explaining that college players compete in fewer games and thus have more time to train and develop their abilities.
“It was a great league and a great stepping stone,” Johnson said.
Johnson also enjoyed his life outside of hockey, where he said he was able to not only “grow up a little bit,” but also develop strong friendships and enjoy the “special lifestyle” afforded by the College.
“It helps more than you can imagine in terms of growing up and knowing what you want to do later on,” he said.
Johnson added that he is excited to move to Phoenix and play for the Coyotes, in part because he will be slightly closer to home and his family.
“I’m excited for a new fresh start,” he said. “Hopefully this will be my last first start.”
Gaudet praised Johnson and other former Dartmouth hockey players, like Lee Stempniak ’05 and Ben Lovejoy ’06, who have found success in the NHL.
“I’m really proud of all the guys playing pro hockey,” Gaudet said. “Nick [Johnson] is a great representative of Dartmouth College and of our program.”
Staff writer Felicia Schwartz contributed reporting to this article.