The scoring leader of the Winnipeg ICE from the 2019-20 season will be suiting up for a new team next year. However, he won’t have to move cities. How does that work? Well for forward Isaac Johnson, when the local American Hockey League team comes knocking, you best be wearing your finest suit when opening the door.
On Wednesday, the Manitoba Moose announced the signing of two players, Isaac Johnson and Jeff Malott to standard AHL contracts for the coming 2020-21 season. Johnson spent the 2019-20 Western Hockey League season with Winnipeg, where he led the show offensively for the first-year ICE. Filling in nicely for injured team captain Peyton Krebs, Johnson registered 28 goals and 73 points in just 62 games, setting a new career mark in his final year of WHL eligibility.
As the story goes, while playing for the Tri-City Americans, Johnson actually walked away from the game of hockey back at the end of December 2018, as a ‘family situation’ removed him from the game. Winnipeg negotiated a trade with Tri-City, sending a fourth round selection to the Americans for the rights to Johnson. That trade very well may have saved Winnipeg’s season, as team captain Peyton Krebs went down with his leg injury just one month later.
With 12 goals and 32 points in 30 games, Winnipeg knew it was acquiring an offensive player, but it didn’t know what kind of damage that the break in play did to Johnson’s physical and mental conditioning. Coming back to play his final season of junior hockey proved to be a great decision for the Minnesota product, which ultimately led to his first professional contract.
Malott, 23, comes to Manitoba following four seasons of play with Cornell University of the NCAA. He served as team captain in the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 season, picking up six goals, 13 points and 12 penalty minutes in 29 games. In his 114 game NCAA career, the Burlington, ON. native had 24 goals, 53 points and 135 penalty minutes, while finishing a +26.
Much like Johnson, Malott – as player in his early 20s – will be on a short leash should he make the Moose squad in 2020-21. The ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen are just a call away. This past season saw many young ECHL player earn opportunities in the AHL due to a number of Winnipeg Jets injuries. With a lengthened offseason on their hands, both Johnson and Malott will lament in the missed opportunities to finish their junior and college careers with postseason play, but will have ample opportunity to ready themselves for the coming year.