Brent Johnson chipped the puck into the corner in the offensive zone and gave chase to it.

The Sioux Falls Stampede defenseman won the race to the puck, picked it up, turned toward the wall and absorbed a check. His shoulder went straight into the boards, it became dislocated, and that was the end of his outstanding hockey season.

The injury happened on April 2, just five days before the BioSteel All-American Game. Johnson missed the game and had to have surgery on his shoulder.

"It was pretty heartbreaking, because I was clicking pretty well," Johnson said. "But I have to move past it, be content with the season I had and focus on the next chapter."

The next chapter will be Johnson's freshman season at UND, a development nobody could have seen coming a year ago.

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Last summer, Johnson was a relatively unknown prospect. He was born and raised in the Dallas area, away from traditional hockey recruiting grounds. He hadn't played at a level higher than 16-and-under. And he was attempting to play as the youngest regular defenseman for the Stampede.

Sioux Falls thought the 5-foot-11, 165-pound defenseman would some day be a prominent player for them -- they used a second-round draft pick to snag his rights in 2019 -- but they weren't sure about his timeline.

"All of us would probably say he surprised us on how well he adapted and how soon he became a well-known player around the league," Sioux Falls coach Marty Murray said. "Those are pleasant surprises. It was fun, once he got his feet wet and he understood the league, watching him take off and excel."

By the end of the year, Johnson had committed to UND and jumped onto NHL Draft boards. He could go as high as the second or third round next month.

The UND coaching staff determined Johnson was ready to make the jump to college, and the Fighting Hawks will bring him to campus this summer as the youngest member of the eight-man freshman class.

"I want to win a national championship," Johnson said. "That's the goal. I want to win. I'll do whatever I can. Whatever they need me to be is what I want to be, and I'll do it to the best of my abilities."

Johnson has been cleared to begin skating again on July 9, and he will be cleared for contact in August. That should be plenty of time for him to be ready to play in the season opener.

He will join a UND defensive core that includes sophomore Jake Sanderson, junior Ethan Frisch, sophomore Tyler Kleven, sophomore Cooper Moore, junior transfer Chris Jandric, rookie Luke Bast and junior transfer Brady Ferner.

Johnson's strength is creating offense.

"I think he's really deceptive," said Murray, who played in the NHL for Calgary, Philadelphia, Carolina and Los Angeles. "He can shake a forechecker. He skates well. He has a lot of poise at the blue line. He pulls pucks around people. He can get them to bite on a fake. He has a sneaky little wrist shot from the point that he probably scored seven goals with. I was quite impressed with his ability to create offense, especially at a young age and in a good league."

Johnson started last season with two points and a plus-2 rating in his first 11 games. He finished it with 30 points and a plus-13 in his final 36 games. Only four USHL defenders had more points than Johnson.

He earned second-team all-USHL honors this week.

"He creates a lot," Murray said. "One thing he needs to work on is that he can move the puck a little quicker and sometimes make an easier play. But he can do things that bring people out of their seats, that's for sure."

Now, Johnson will try to replicate that success at the college level.

"He's a player who has confidence," Murray said. "It's not over the top, but he believes in himself. You have to have belief in yourself to move to the next level. Brent has that. He's a young man, who is still growing and is going to get stronger. Unfortunately, his summer is going to revolve around rehabbing his shoulder.

"Overall, going from playing against 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds to playing against 22-, 23-, 24-year-old men, is going to be a challenge for everybody, including Brent. But he's smart enough, he has a good stick and he's positionally sound, and I know the staff at UND will do a great job taking him to the next level."