One of the biggest questions of the season was whether or not 19-year-old Wyatt Johnston would make the Stars roster after dominating the OHL with 124 points in 68 games. Once he made the team, the focus switched to his nine-game tryout, after which Dallas would need to decide whether to send him back to the OHL or start his entry-level contract and keep him at the NHL level. He is not allowed to be sent to the AHL.
There are still three games left until this decision needs to be made, but at this time, all signs are pointing to the Ontario native sticking around for the long haul.
In seven games, Johnston has recorded three goals and four points. His power-play tally on opening night made him the youngest player in franchise history to score a goal. He currently sits tied for second in goals and has seen his ice time climb to over 15 minutes per night.
"Every game and every day I've been getting more confident and more comfortable," Johnston said. "It's obviously a really big adjustment from juniors, so as the games and days go on, I'm just getting more comfortable. There are moments when you look around and you're like `Wow!' You're just in awe. But I try to do my best to shut that out and focus on playing hockey, because that will help me be the most successful."
Since Pete DeBoer swapped Ty Dellandrea onto the third line joining Johnston and Jamie Benn, that trio has been the most improved of the group. In three games, they have accounted for two goals and five assists, capped off by an excellent performance Tuesday night in Boston.
“I thought that might have been Johnny’s best game of the season,” DeBoer said. “That’s a good sign, when you’re playing a team like this in a back-to-back and your young guys have the ability to come out and give you a good game, that’s a good sign.”
Big save 👉 Bigger goal
Rook's got his third of the season 👏
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) October 26, 2022
The journey for Johnston has really been fun to watch. He and Dellandrea have taken massive steps in their development and given the Stars the depth they desperately needed upfront.
As for the decision. Johnston can play nine games before anything official needs to be done. That means, barring any scratches, that his last tryout game will come against the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Has he done enough to stay at the NHL level? I believe so. Is his size going to be the determining factor? No. Plenty of smaller players are having success and he will be able to add size following his first season.
To me, his performance, plus the fact that he could potentially regress playing junior hockey, convinces me that Johnston’s days in the OHL are over.