DALLAS — Dallas Stars center Wyatt Johnston came into this season hoping just to make the roster and have decent playing time.
“Honestly I didn’t know what to expect going into the year,” he said. “I knew that’s what would help make me stick and help make me play is if you’re helping the team win.”
Head coach Pete DeBoer admits he didn’t have high hopes either.
“My expectations were small,” he said Wednesday. “Let’s give him a look and try to set him up to have success in training camp. He took that, and, you know, here we are today.”
Twenty-four goals and 17 assists later and DeBoer says Johnston, who just turned 20 years old this week, was snubbed when he wasn’t named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL Rookie of the Year.
“I haven’t had a player that young step into the lineup and contribute at this level in my 15 years in the league, and it’s not close,” DeBoer said.
Johnston acknowledges he’s disappointed but focused on the future.
“I’d rather win games and help the team win so all the other stuff it’s obviously cool but not as important to me,” he said. “I’m a lot more happy to win a Stanley Cup than win some personal awards.”
Johnston had a series-clinching goal against the Minnesota Wild in Game 6 and then became the youngest player in NHL history to score a Game 7-winning goal when he clinched the series victory against the Seattle Kraken.
“Tried to get something on net at the end of the day and lucky enough it went in,” Johnston said. “It was pretty special.”
The list of accolades goes on. Johnson is also just the fifth teenager in Stars or North Stars history to score multiple postseason goals.
He’s spent the season living with and learning from veteran Joe Pavelski, who, at 38, is nearly twice his age. Besides reviewing what’s happening on the ice, the biggest lessons are how to live life off it.
“Nutrition is big, just eating the right things,” Johnston said. “Then there’s a bunch of different things you do to make sure your body is feeling good.”
The rookie joked Wednesday that he tried to make a small footprint in the home and clean up, and that last night they had cooked a big meal of steak, crab and shrimp paired with green beans and potatoes.
“Wyatt will look back 10 years from now and realize how valuable living with Joe was and the daily feedback and the daily conversations,” DeBoer said.
In his decorated career, Pavelski has never won the Stanley Cup, something they’re now eight wins away from.
“Some guys go their whole career and don’t even get to the conference final,” Johnston said.
The kid with no expectations has had a dream rookie season and steals moments with family to reflect and appreciate the success.
“Talking to them I think you get perspective,” he said. “I think you get to just kind of see it just kind of from their view and see how cool and how special it’s been.”