GOLDEN-On a Golden Rockets squad battling for a playoff spot, Alex Johnson has been one of the most consistent players.
“He is good at both ends of the ice. One of our better penalty killers,” says now-former Rockets coach Jeremy Blumes. “Real crafty on the power-play. We’ve been pleased with his progress.”
Johnson joined the Rockets as a 16-year-old rookie last season putting up 10 points in 37 games.
Golden Rockets forward Alex Johnson skates through the neutral zone in Spokane against the Braves.
KIJHL Media photo
“There was a really steep learning curve. You saw him gain confidence and really understand playing a 200-foot game,” says Blumes. “That growth paid dividends this season. He has been one of our go-to-guys.”
The Calgary native has 10 goals and 31 points in 38 games. Johnson feels he has been performing well this season. Having more experience in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) has helped.
Adapting to stronger and bigger competition was a process. He learned to keep his head up to avoid body checks skating down the ice. He also noticed the play in the KIJHL is quicker than midget hockey.
“Being so young, I really got to get some good leadership from the veterans last year,” says Johnson. “They showed me how to deal with the adversity that we are going through this year.”
Among the people influential in his development is Blumes. On a weekend that concluded in Spokane, Johnson said he was in a minor slump and a conversation with his coach helped him snap out of it.
“He gave me some pointers on how to deal with the hardships I have been going through,” says Johnson. “It worked out as I scored a goal tonight.”
Johnson is a playmaker who looks to find an open teammate.
“I tend to pass the puck more than I should sometimes,” he explains. “I always think that if I’m getting my teammates involved, they will always reward me first.”
Offseason work with a skills coach showed Johnson how to score and find an open teammate. He also credits his linemates for his increased production. He has primarily played with Liam Morris and Dante Pietrarca. Recently it has been Morris and Connor Funke.
As much as he produces, Johnson cares about being a strong defensive contributor, adding that “the best offence comes from good defence.”
“Even in the offensive zone, putting the puck in the net, I had trouble with that the past couple years,” he says. “In practice I have been really trying to bear down. Even if it makes the goalies upset, you have to do it sometimes to get better yourself.”
The work Johnson has put in has caught the attention of junior A clubs in the Alberta and British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s. Scouts have told him what he needs to work on to make the jump, but say they like his game. His goal is to play junior A next season.
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“Looking to the future, we expect Alex to make the jump to junior,” says Blumes. “He has a terrific work ethic and a great head for the game. Right now it’s just a matter of physical maturity. He’s a little bit light (5-11, 155 pounds). He needs to have a good spring and summer of training.”
Johnson says playing in the KIJHL has been great and he has learned a lot, adding that his teammates have been a positive influence.
“Even playing against other teams, it has taught me how to play bigger than I am,” says Johnson. “That is preparing me for the next step.”