ROCKFORD, Ill. – As the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning prepare for Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, IceHogs fans may recognize two familiar names competing for hockey’s ultimate prize.
IceHogs alums Stephen Johns and Jan Rutta are matched against each other, battling to become the 26th member of the IceHogs to hoist the Stanley Cup and the first alum to win since 2015 when 12 members earned the ultimate prize with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Johns, 28, skated with the IceHogs for two seasons from 2013-15, totaling 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) in 58 games and appeared in eight Calder Cup Playoff contests in 2015, netting seven points (three goals, four assists). Since his time in Rockford, the Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, native spent the last five seasons with the Dallas Stars organization totaling 167 NHL contests and earning 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists).
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound defenseman missed the entire 2018-19 season due to injury, but made impressive strides to return ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. In his first appearance in competitive action, he registered a four-point performance with a goal and three assists on Jan. 11 while on a conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars. Now back with Dallas, Johns added five points (two goals, three assists) in 17 regular-season games and has appeared in four contests during this Stanley Cup Playoff run.
During his return to the ice, Johns went into great detail about his journey that included severe bouts with depression and relying on the support from his family and the Stars organization to make his comeback a success. In June, Johns became the Stars’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for a player who best exemplifies the “qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey” and became a finalist this past September.
Rutta, 30, appeared in eight games with the IceHogs during the 2018-19 campaign, adding a goal and three assists for four points before being acquired by Tampa Bay on Jan. 11. In 80 games with the Chicago Blackhawks (2017-19), the Pisek, Czech Republic, native added 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists).
After splitting time between Chicago and Tampa and their AHL affiliates last season, Rutta found a groove with the Lightning during the 2019-20 regular season, picking up seven points (one goal, six assists) in 33 games and was a +6 on the blueline. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Rutta appeared in one contest with the Lightning during round-robin play.