After missing the entire 2018-19 season and everything so far in 2019-20, Stephen Johns is ready to get back on the ice. The Dallas Stars defenseman has been loaned to the AHL’s Texas Stars on a conditioning assignment. The last professional game Johns played was on March 29th, 2018. He has been out with post-traumatic headaches for the last year and a half.
Johns, 27, was the other piece that came to Dallas alongside Patrick Sharp in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, before he had ever played in the NHL. After being selected 60th overall by the Blackhawks in 2010, Johns had spent four years at Notre Dame and then a full season in the minor leagues. Though he had found success at both stops, there was no guarantee he would ever really become a regular at the NHL level. That quickly changed however, as Johns made his NHL debut the next season for Dallas and would work his way into the lineup on a nightly basis soon after that (even if injuries did help open some opportunities along the way). Between 2016-17 and 2017-18 he played in 136 games for the Stars, registering 25 points.
It wasn’t offense that stood out when watching Johns however. His 6’4″ frame could move well around the ice and he was absolutely fearless when engaging physically or blocking shots. In 2017-18 he easily led Dallas in hits and blocks, despite averaging just over 17 minutes a night. Add that to the fact that he is right-handed and has a little more skill with the puck than many give him credit for, and he becomes an intriguing package that any team could use on the back end.
There’s no clear timeline for his return to the NHL, but it is great to see Johns getting back into some game action. Hopefully he’ll be able to return to Dallas before long.