FRISCO — Stars teenager Wyatt Johnston will remain in the NHL, general manager Jim Nill confirmed on Monday.
Johnston, 19, played his ninth NHL game on Saturday, ushering in a decision on his future over the weekend. Teenagers can play nine games in the NHL without using a year of their entry-level contract, but burn a year once they play the 10th.
Nill said he spoke to Johnston on Saturday night and told him that he would remain in the NHL instead of going back to Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League. Nill said the Stars “anticipate him being here the whole year,” but added that the team will monitor his progress.
“I want to say he’s here,” Nill said. “Now, if we get into December 20th and he’s really struggling, he has the option to go back to World Juniors. Right now, he’s in our lineup. He’s one of the 12 guys in our lineup every night and that’s the attitude that we’re taking with him.”
Johnston has three goals and an assist this season. He’s centered the third line and played on the second power play unit while averaging 14:19 of ice time per game.
Johnston was a first-round pick in 2021, and was named the OHL’s most outstanding player last year, when he led the league with 124 points.
“He deserves to be here,” Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. “He’s a big part of our group. He makes our team better. He’s shown that every night he’s been in the lineup. I’m excited about him. My excitement lies in that I think he’s just scratching the surface.”
Johnston is the first North American teenager to play for the Stars since Todd Harvey and Jamie Langenbrunner in 1995. He is the fourth teenager to play for the Stars under Jim Nill, joining Valeri Nichushkin, Denis Gurianov and Miro Heiskanen.
Nill said the Stars have been impressed with Johnston’s ability to match up physically with NHLers.
“You’re always worried about the strength,” Nill said. “He’s a young man, 19, playing against men. Worried about the physicality. Pete and I were talking, I can’t remember in a game where he’s really got thrown around and ended up on his back. He’s gone into battles and a lot of times, he’s stealing the puck. He’s not getting overwhelmed in physical confrontations.”
Nill said Johnston will continue to live with Joe Pavelski and his family.
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