You can be forgiven if you’ve never seen Reese Johnson in a Red Deer Rebels uniform, or even heard his name mentioned in talk about the team.
Over the past three seasons, Johnson has had bad luck with injuries. The 19-year-old forward hurt his shoulder during a fight in the final game of the preseason last year and returned for three games in the playoffs.
The year before he missed more than half the season with another shoulder injury. He’s had the same surgery on both his left and right shoulder in consecutive campaigns.
Since his 16-year-old year, he’s played just 48 regular season games in Red Deer.
“Last few years were tough, but injuries happen and that’s part of the game. I did everything I can to get back in shape and get ready for this season, which I’m excited for,” he said.
Johnson spent last season in his hometown of Saskatoon recovering. He said the majority of his summer was making sure his shoulder would be 100 per cent for this year.
“After surgery (last year) it was six weeks in a sling. From there it’s slow … just getting things moving and trying to get as much range of motion back,” Johnson said.
“It’s still limited and always will be. That’s what the surgery does but they’re both feeling really good.”
Before his 2015-2016 injury, the six-foot-one, 193-pound forward had produced six points in 36 games.
As a 16-year-old he played 12 games with the Rebels. He was originally a list player who burst onto the scene after scoring 23 goals in 42 games with the Saskatoon Blazers in his Midget AAA season as a 15-year-old.
Although he’s yet to reach that potential in the WHL, the possibility that Johnson could return in a top six role for the Rebels or play impact minutes is certainly realistic.
Johnson is happy to be back in the team environment.
“Last year I didn’t get to spend much time with the guys,” he said. “After surgery I went home and it’s nice to be back and get a good team thing going again,” Johnson said.
“Lots of down-to-earth young guys which is nice. Some are a little quiet but you try and make them comfortable.”
After several days of training camp and scrimmages, Johnson said he likes the mix and thinks the players have a chance to accomplish something special this season including the top team in the league.
“We’re going to push for that,” he said. “We just have to play every game like we want to win, and we know we can beat any team in the league if we bring a team game and everyone works together and works hard.”