Johnston Excited for Fresh Start
Defenseman enjoying his start with the GullsNov 15, 2019
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
The hockey world is a small one. Just ask the newest Gull, Ryan Johnston.
“Obviously, I was very excited,” he said about joining San Diego. “I’ve heard a lot of good things. Played with people that have played here before, and not a single person has complained about it. I was really excited.”
One of those people – former Gull Kalle Kossila, who gave him a quick scouting report on Johnston’s new team.
“Kosilla was saying they have a really good forward group, and obviously a good defensive group, too,” he recalled, discussing the conversation the two had.. “The forwards were really skilled, from what he was saying, so I was excited to work with them. It’s fun to have those forwards, and typically trying to be an offensive defenseman, it’s fun to move around and play with guys that see the ice.”
It wasn’t just the talent which drew praise from others around the league.
“Just in general, they really care about their players over here in this organization,” Johnston said. “From everything I heard, right off the get go, I was just excited.”
Johnston joined the team on its recent three-game road trip, meeting the team for practice in San Jose. It made for an easier transition, as he immediately spent time getting to know his new teammates.
“You have a roommate on the road right away, so you’re hanging out with someone. You don’t just come here and end up staying in your hotel by yourself for two weeks, not getting to know the guys outside of the rink,” he said. “It was a good way to get to dinner with people, or go for lunch with the guys, and actually get to converse and get to know people on a more personal level.”
The right-handed defenseman made his debut against the Barracuda at SAP Center, and found the scoresheet three days later, earning an assist in the 9-3 win over San Jose at Pechanga Arena San Diego on November 13.
His home debut is one he soon won’t forget.
“Out of the couple of teams in California, it’s a really good fan base,” Johnston said. “You can tell, right beside the benches, people are banging the glass. You’re always giving out high fives going out (onto the ice). You can tell they care about you, they’re passionate about their team. It always makes hockey enjoyable, your job enjoyable.”
Johnston, who felt he had a strong camp with the Marlies, admitted it was a difficult situation in Toronto. Coming to a new organization provides a new opportunity, and a chance to reconnect with his former coach, Sylvain Lefebvre. Johnston and Lefebvre were both in St. John’s from 2015-17.
“I had a good talk with Sylvain about defensive strategy and how things would go,” Johnston said. “It was pretty fluid in terms of that, because I know how he operates and some of the systems we had before in the past were here. It made it pretty seamless, I thought.”
Both the past experience with Lefebvre – and the current players on the team – helped him feel comfortable right away.
“It definitely alleviates some stress and pressure on and off the ice. I really appreciated it – they’re all really good people,” the defenseman said. “Veterans, rookies, whoever it may be. I really appreciate it.”
His short time with the Gulls left Johnson with a smile on his face.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “First and foremost, I wanted to play hockey again. To get on the ice and be able to play and do something that I love was first and foremost. You can’t complain about anything else.
“When the sun is shining, you’re in a good mood all the time. Having a good team makes it extremely enjoyable to come to the rink. You want to come to the rink as soon as you wake up. I can’t wait to go to the rink and hang out with the guys and be on the ice.”