Michigan to NHL exodus starts with Johnson to Blue Jackets

Posted 4/8/22

The exodus from Michigan to the NHL is under way.

Less than 24 hours after the Wolverines lost in the NCAA Tournament semifinals, Kent Johnson became the first player to jump to the NHL by …

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Michigan to NHL exodus starts with Johnson to Blue Jackets

Posted

The exodus from Michigan to the NHL is under way.

Less than 24 hours after the Wolverines lost in the NCAA Tournament semifinals, Kent Johnson became the first player to jump to the NHL by signing a three-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets that begins immediately. Michigan captain Nick Blankenburg joined him on a one-year deal.

Top pick Owen Power could soon follow with an agreement possible with the Buffalo Sabres as soon as Friday. Fellow Olympians Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson might not be too far behind as the loaded Wolverines lose some of the star power that made them a trendy pick to win a championship.

Michigan fell two victories short of the goal after being eliminated in overtime by Denver.

Johnson and Blankenburg are expected to join their new team Monday. Blankenburg was a free agent, while Johnson was the fifth pick in the 2021 draft. The skilled 19-year-old forward had 17 goals and 47 assists in his final college season and had five points in four games at the 2022 Olympics representing Canada.

“Kent Johnson is a remarkable young man both on and off the ice,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He is a highly-skilled and creative player who can bring you out of your seat whenever he’s on the ice. We’re thrilled that he is taking the next step in his career and look forward to his growth and contributions as (with the Blue Jackets) for years to come.”

The Sabres expect the same from Power, a 6-foot-6, 214-pound defenseman who also played for Canada at the Beijing Games. Power was more than a point-a-game player this past season for Michigan and could make his NHL debut within days.

That's also possible for Beniers and Brisson, who starred for the U.S. at the Olympics on a team featuring more than a dozen college players. Beniers could soon join the expansion Seattle Kraken after they took him second in the draft, while Brisson was a 2020 first-round pick by Vegas.

Goaltender Erik Portillo (Buffalo), defensemen Luke Hughes and Ethan Edwards (New Jersey) and Jacob Truscott (Vancouver), forwards Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose), John Beecher (Boston), Eric Ciccolini (New York Rangers), Mackie Samoskevich (Florida) and Dylan Duke (Tampa Bay) are the other Michigan players with rights already owned by NHL clubs.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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