Kaeden Johnston is proof that persistence pays off.
Cut by his AAA team Peterborough in 2019, Johnston was drafted into the OHL two years later and signed a standard player contract with the London Knights last Thursday.
He played his major bantam season with the Central Ontario Wolves before returning to Minor Midget AAA Petes to train during the canceled 2020-21 season.
The Knights have seen enough of Johnston in the show camps to sign the fast forward in the fifth round of the 2021 OHL Priority Draft.
The Knights liked him enough on a summer skate to ask Johnston to move to the London area and play for the GOJHL’s Komoka Kings so he could train regularly with the Knights and they can monitor its development more closely.
He responded with an impressive season tallying 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in 33 games with the Kings leading up to his signing.
“You dream about it all your life, taking it to the next level,” said Johnston, 17. “You don’t know if it’s going to happen, so it’s a dream come true and a huge honor.”
Johnston will finish the season with the Kings and plans to join the Knights next season.
“Kaeden had a great year in Junior B and we’re really excited to add the speed and goal-scoring ability he has to our roster,” Knights associate general manager Rob Simpson said in a statement. Press release.
Johnston said when asked by Knights general manager Mark Hunter if he was open to moving to the area this season, he didn’t hesitate.
“Obviously I picked up and moved right away. The opportunity to skate with them every day and be so close, you have to make that decision right away,” said Johnston, son of Donna and Mark Johnston.
Things couldn’t have gone better with the Kings either.
“My coaches have given me a lot of opportunities and given me that confidence. I feel like it’s boosted my confidence and it’s helped me play better. We’ve had a pretty solid season and I hopefully we get into the playoffs,” he said.
After being cut in 2019, Johnston said he just kept his head down and kept working to improve.
“It was hard to hear that I had been kicked out of the team in quite an important year. You can’t let it get to you. You just have to keep working hard and wherever the road takes you. , she leads you,” he said.
It’s exciting, he says, to join a big name franchise like the Knights. London had more players drafted into the NHL than any other junior franchise surpassing the Petes for that honor last year.
“People who have come through this organization make it even more of an honor to be able to play for this team,” Johnston said.
“Guys like Patrick Kane, Mitch Marner, Bo Horvat. There are so many greats playing in the NHL now. »
The Knights want Johnston to use his speed and scoring skills and be physical, but he knows he won’t be given anything in terms of ice time.
“Nothing is given to you once you reach the next level. You have to earn every step,” he said.
Johnston reflected on his journey to this stage of his career.
“You watch a game on TV and you think it would be great to play in it, but you never really know what it takes until you finally get there. It’s just an honor to see your work will pay off,” he said.
Johnston said he hasn’t been told if he’ll play a Knights game this season, but he’s hopeful.