The Chicago Blackhawks drafted forward Luke Johnson in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, taking the North Dakota native with the 134th overall pick after his second season with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars.
Now, he’s going pro.
Johnson became the second player from the University of North Dakota to ink an entry-level deal on Friday, joining fellow NCAA junior Paul Ladue in forfeiting his final year of NCAA eligibility in order to go pro. He’s inked for the next three years with the Blackhawks, and will be eligible to join them at either the AHL or NHL level starting next season.
A right shot center, Johnson finished his 2015-16 season with North Dakota boasting 11 goals and 21 points through 43 games; although he isn’t one of the team’s top scorers, he was an integral part of their forward corps for the last few seasons.
The Blackhawks are entering their 2016-17 season with nearly $66 million in cap space tied up in just 29 players – and the salary cap isn’t expected to go up by much, if at all – so the Central Division club is going to need to start getting creative with who is debuted on their roster. Adding players like Johnson, even if he serves as AHL depth with call-up ability, should help them with filling out the roster on what’s looking like an extremely tight budget.