BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Defenseman Ryan Johnson has signed an entry-level contract with the Sabres, the team announced Saturday.
Johnson, who turns 22 in July, was drafted 31st overall by the Sabres in 2019 and recently finished his four-year career playing for University of Minnesota. Johnson will report to the Rochester Americans for the duration of the Calder Cup playoffs, and his two-year deal will begin next season.
Johnson was selected with one of the picks Buffalo obtained by trading Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues during the 2019 offseason. That deal also brought in Tage Thompson, who would develop into an All-Star center, along with a second-round pick that was used to draft Russian forward Alexander Kisakov, who signed an entry-level contract last May.
The 6-foot, 170-pound, left-shot defenseman had 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 40 games during his senior season at Minnesota. Johnson’s plus-22 rating ranked 13th among Division I defenseman, and he was an all-Big Ten honorable mention for the Golden Gophers, who reached the Frozen Four championship game as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. At the 2021 world junior championships, Johnson had a goal and three assists in seven games to help Team USA win a gold medal.
The Sabres would have received a compensatory second-round pick in the 2024 draft had Johnson chosen not to sign with Buffalo before August and become a free agent.
Johnson could have signed with the Sabres earlier this spring when his college season ended, allowing him to join the Amerks earlier in the postseason and possibly play games in Buffalo at the end of the NHL season. The delay in Johnson’s signing led to speculation he would become a free agent and perhaps sign with his hometown Anaheim Ducks, where his father, former NHL forward Craig Johnson is an assistant coach.
It is unclear when Johnson will make his debut with the Amerks, who are tied at 1-1 in their conference finals series with Hershey. Game 3 is Saturday night in Rochester, and Game 4 is Monday.
Johnson is the fourth prospect the Sabres have signed this month to an entry-level deal. The others are forward Viktor Neuchev, a third-round pick in last year’s draft, defenseman Vsevolod Komarov, last year’s fifth-round selection, and defenseman Nikita Novikov, a sixth-rounder from 2021.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.