What to Expect from Dallas’ Stephen Johns


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By Greg Johnson

Dallas Stars Writer

The defensive end for Dallas has been a huge question mark in the last few seasons. As they continue to rank near the top in goals scored, the Stars continue to be pummeled by goals against.

Many people will call out goaltending, but defense is the first thing an opponent needs to get through to get the opportunity to score. Both are important to take a look at. Big changes are coming to Dallas with young talent stepping in after a whirlwind of player movement left some big holes in the defensive end.

After signing a 2-year contract with Dallas this offseason, defenseman Stephen Johns looks to follow up a strong year and prove he can become a set piece in the Stars roster and make the changes Stars fans are looking for.

Johns came in late in the 2015-16 season to replace the injured Jason Demers, playing a total of just 14 NHL games. Let’s take a look at what he did in those games, and what we have to look forward to in October.

 

  • Physical play: Johns measures in at 6’4 and hits like a truck (Google “Johns hits Max Domi” for an example). Johns averaged barely under 4 hits per game and had 13.2 hits per 60 minutes played. Not exactly small numbers. He has the presence of mind to know when to hit hard and force a turnover, but sometimes the thirst for blood can result in an overcommitment, leaving him out of position. This can be coached however, and I will enjoy seeing number 28 sending guys into the boards on a regular basis.

 

  • More shots (but not that many): Johns scored only one goal in his brief introduction to the NHL. A powerful slap shot from near the blue line sailed past Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop to tie the game in the 3rd. Johns shot more in his AHL days, but did not score frequently. I believe he will get more comfortable with his powerful shot and gain confidence to take opportunities in the coming season. However, I do not think it will necessarily be his strongest attribute. Since he’s a defenseman, I’d say this can be overlooked. There is only so much need for more Kris Letangs.

 

  • Pair?: The first defensive pairing will undoubtedly be held by John Klingberg and new Stars signee Dan Hamhuis. Johns should start on the second pair, ideally with Johnny Oduya. His physical play style will fit well with the 2nd and 3rd forward lines that puts him with, and skating alongside a vet like Oduya is a logical move. As a defenseman, the most important thing Johns can produce is actual defense. We all know he can block a shot like no one’s business (21 total in the 14 games played), but what I want to see is the elimination of that shot attempt altogether. I want to see him reading plays on the fly and making that takeaway count rise.

 

  • Final thoughts: This season, Johns will show growth. I predict that more often than not, plays resulting in goals will be a direct result of his aptitude and spatial awareness. Regular fans may not even see his contribution right away. His role is not to be offense minded, but hunkering down the defense and being a wall opponents are afraid to go through. I also predict he will make some mistakes. Simple errors may quickly negate consistent effort. That is how things go for someone this early in the league, but Johns is not new to hockey. He will learn fast.
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