Longtime Anaheim Jr. Ducks defenseman Ryan Johnson has been picked for the United States Under-17 Select Team that will compete at the Five Nations Tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Aug. 23-27.
Joining Johnson will be forward Josh Groll, who will play on the Jr. Ducks’ 16U AAA team with Johnson this coming season. The two participated at the USA Hockey Boys Select 16 Player Development Camp in Amherst, N.Y., this week.
“It’s really exciting for Josh and me,” Johnson said. “When we made the all-star game (at the camp), it was exciting, but to make the team took that another step.
“Having the opportunity to represent the USA and wear the colors is an honor.”
The selection of Johnson means the Jr. Ducks will be represented at both major summer international tournaments. Former Jr. Ducks defenseman Slava Demin, who played this past season for Wenatchee of the British Columbia Hockey League, will play for Team USA at the U18 Ivan Hlinka Cup from Aug. 7-12 in Breclav, Czech Republic.
“That’s pretty cool, and it says a lot about the kids,” said Jr. Ducks Director of Coaches Craig Johnson, who is Ryan’s father. “No. 1 for Slava to make the Hlinka, that’s the first big tournament as kids become eligible for draft. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for him.
“It’s the same with Josh and Ryan. It’s a great opportunity to represent their country and they’ve worked hard to do it. Both have put in a lot of hours, and both have stayed in California to get to this point. It shows players can develop and grow by staying in the state.”
Ryan Johnson had participated in previous USA Hockey Select camps but this was a little different.
“It was a little more pressure knowing what was at stake,” he said. “That only motivated me to work harder.”
He and Groll, who had previously played together at some CAHA camps and occasionally against each other, will leave Aug. 16 for Newark, N.J., where they will meet their Select 17 teammates before flying to the Czech Republic.
Craig Johnson represented Team USA at the 1990 World Junior Championships, the 1994 Olympic Games and four times at the World Championships. The thought of his son also being able to experience playing for his country is thrilling.
“Any time you get to put on that US sweater, it’s an honor and a privilege,” Craig said. “For Ryan to represent his country at a young age is pretty special. You can never take this for granted.”
In May, Ryan Johnson became the highest drafted Californian in the United States Hockey League’s Futures Draft when the Sioux Falls Stampede selected him third overall. He also was one of three players with ties to the Jr. Ducks (Cam York and Nicholas Kent were the others) to be invited to the U.S. National Team Development Program’s top-20 prospects evaluation camp in Ann Arbor, Mich., in March. York made the USNTDP U17 squad for 2017-18.
Johnson had 28 points in 36 games in the Tier I Elite Hockey League, and added seven points in 11 CAHA games. He helped the Jr. Ducks 16U AAA team and the Santa Margarita Catholic High School both reach the USA Hockey Youth Nationals this past season. Santa Margarita, a member of the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League, reached the championship game at Nationals.