TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Stephen Johns was responsible for ending the Texas Stars’ 2014-15 season.
The defenseman — then a member of the Rockford IceHogs — jumped into the offensive play in overtime, toe-dragged around a defender, and tucked a wraparound inside the right post to complete a three-game series sweep.
Four months and a trade from Chicago to Dallas later, he’s taking part in his first official activity as a member of the Dallas Stars organization at the NHL Prospects Tournament here in Traverse City.
“It’s obviously been a little bit of a whirlwind of emotions … it was unexpected,” Johns said. “But, I’m excited to be part of the Dallas Stars organization.”
Texas coach Derek Laxdal, who is coaching the prospects team this week, has jokingly “shared words” about the goal with Johns. But, the coach is glad that Johns’ is on his side when Dallas’ prospects will play — fittingly — the Chicago Blackhawk’s prospect team this evening.
“He’s a player,” Laxdal said. “He’s going to be close to the NHL this season.”
And that’s the 6-foot-4, 235-pound defenseman’s goal.
He’s hoping a strong prospects tournament can springboard into a strong training camp showing, and then parlay that into an NHL job in Dallas.
“I think I’m close. I think I’m NHL ready,” Johns said. “But, I think every guy I’m battling with thinks they’re NHL ready … it all starts here. Got to have a good week here, and play well, and just show the organization what kind of player I am.”
And Dallas is an organization that rewards young defensemen for their AHL performance. Last season, Dallas general manager Jim Nill made a couple of moves where he specifically said, “we want the kids to play.”
That was a strong selling point to Johns after the trade, which shipped Trevor Daley to Chicago.
“I’ve heard good things,” Johns said. “I know Lindy Ruff is open to giving young guys a shot. I know I just have to play well and play within myself. Play my game, and hopefully everything will work out.”