Gregg Johnson was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the eighth round of the 2001 Entry Draft after his freshman season at Boston University. The 5’11 179-pound center had a productive sophomore season, scoring .70 points per game, but then trailed off to .21 and .27 points per game in his junior and senior seasons respectively. He got a taste of the AHL at the end of last season after his senior season was over, spending five regular season games with the Binghamton Senators, farm club of Ottawa.
Johnson spent the majority of the 2004-05 season with the Pee Dee Pride of the ECHL, where his list of offensive accomplishments is impressive. He was fifth among league rookies in scoring, with 27 goals, 36 assists for 63 points in 70 games (.90 points per game). The 22-year-old led his team in scoring as well. Johnson scored 14 points more than fellow BU alum, rookie Ken Magowan, who spent the season with Augusta and had 49 points in 69 games, good for a tie for 17th on the rookie scoring list. Johnson was called up to Binghamton for four games as well.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Johnson following his final game of the season on Saturday in Greenville, where he had a goal and an assist.
HF: How do you explain your stunning increase in scoring compared to the last couple of years?
GJ: Well, to be honest, college at times was a tough time. I was playing a totally different role than I am now. I was in a more defensive role. And to be honest, Coach [Jack] Parker and I didn’t see eye to eye on a few things about hockey. He wasn’t the biggest fan of my style of play. It just wasn’t a great fit the last two years at Boston University. I came here with a positive attitude, just try to clear my head and just start fresh, that’s what I needed after being at BU for four years. It was just a fresh start and I tried to learn and make the most of my opportunities and I did this year. So I’m proud of myself, I’m back feeling confident about my game.
HF: Did you ever consider leaving early?
GJ: I did. My freshman and sophomore years were actually pretty good years. I was selected for the [US] World Junior team my sophomore year, and then junior year was just a downer. I was healthy scratched many games, so after that year I was considering it, but I knew I wanted to get my degree. That was a priority for me, and I didn’t want to sit out a year if I transferred so that was eliminated quickly. But it was a character builder. It was something that I had to learn about myself and just try to persevere through and I did that. So I take a positive out of what happened at school and just try to move on.
HF: What is your degree in?
GJ: Sociology. I have a history minor as well. So we’ll see, I’m just going to try to keep playing for as long as I can and we’ll see what happens after that.
HF: Coming into the league this year, did you surprise even yourself a little bit, how much offense you had in you?
GJ: No, I knew what I did at BU, I was capable of better. I didn’t know exactly what, but before I went to BU, and the first two years there were pretty good. I knew I was capable of better, but I just needed to go out and prove it to everyone and myself. I started off, and kept gaining my confidence, and learning the game, the professional game’s a little different. I kept building on that and kept going.
HF: Was the league what you expected coming in?
GJ: Yeah. I had never seen an [ECHL] game until I played in one, but it was definitely what I expected. But obviously you learn a lot being a rookie and everything. I had played in the American League the year before, so I knew a little bit about professional hockey and the level of play and everything. I compared it to that. But you always learn, the whole year, keep learning and keep trying to progress.
HF: Your contract is with Binghamton and Ottawa still has your rights, did they tell you to come and play and then we’ll see what happens, or what was the conversation?
GJ: Well, they wanted to see what I was capable of doing as well because coming out of BU there were a lot of question marks about my game, even though I did well at the rookie camp and the summer camps that I went to. They knew they liked me, but they wanted to see how I would progress and how I’d do at the professional level. So we’ve had good talks with them and we’ll see what happens this summer. It’s a great organization, I’d love to stay with them, but we’ll see what happens.
HF: You still feel like you’re part of their plans then, they haven’t shut the door.
GJ: Absolutely not. I played up there a little this year, but they’ve got a bunch of NHL guys down this year, so it’s tough for rookies coming in. They’ve got a pretty good team, but we’ll see. As far as I know I’m in their plans and we’ll see if we can work a deal this summer.
HF: How did you think you played in Binghamton last year and this year?
GJ: I thought I played great in Binghamton last year, I had a goal and I played well in the playoffs. It was definitely a confidence booster, getting out of BU as a healthy scratch to playing in the American Hockey League. Some games you get more ice time than others, but you’ve got to take that as a learning experience and keep building on that.
HF: Were you watching BU in the tourney this year?
GJ: I forget which game I saw. I didn’t watch the North Dakota game where they got beat, but I watched one before that, maybe it was the Hockey East playoffs. But yeah, I still have buddies on the team and we talk every once in a while. So I keep up on them.
HF: Disappointing to see them lose?
GJ: Yeah, but it’s tough, there are a lot of good teams in college hockey and it’s always one-goal games so it could go either way. But they had a good year, and a great comeback from last year.
HF: North Dakota has looked great this year. I’m taping the final right now.
GJ: You wanna know who won?
GJ: Alright, alright (laughs).
HF: It seems like a lot of BU alumni are doing really well in this league this year, Magowan in Augusta and [Sean] Fields in Gwinnett.
GJ: Yeah, it’s good. One thing about BU is that it prepares you for the next level and no matter what your situation at BU is, and playing in Hockey East which is a great league, just helps you prepare. Yeah, they’re all my buddies and they’re all doing well so it’s nice to see.
HF: Did you score on Fields at all this year?
GJ: Yeah, actually just last weekend I scored on him. It was good, I thanked him for it (laughs).
HF: What do you feel like you need to work on for next year?
GJ: Just keep developing as an all-around player. Obviously I’ll keep producing and keep working on my defensive responsibilities, because ultimately that’s what’s going to get me further and further in hockey. Just try to keep competing and working hard and improving all around.
HF: This season you really proved your critics wrong, how good does that feel?
GJ: Oh, it feels great. Like I said, coming out of BU where I knew I was capable of better, kind of left a bitter taste in my mouth coming out. It’s a great feeling. And I’m not going to settle here, I’m looking forward already and I want to keep improving.
HF: What will you do this summer to train?
GJ: I’m going to live at home. I have a trainer back home that I work out with. Take some time off, then skate once a week and then try to get ready for next season.
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