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Bilton Returns, Johnson Begins Pro Career with Rush

September 6, 2019 - ECHL (ECHL) - Rapid City Rush News Release

(RAPID CITY, SD) - The Rapid City Rush, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, announced today that forward Liam Bilton has returned to the team, and Brett Johnson is slated to begin his professional hockey career as a member of the Rush in the 2019-20 ECHL season.

Bilton concluded last season with the Rush after being acquired on the trade deadline along with Jack Riley from the Florida Everblades in exchange for Riley Weselowski. The 6'4", 220-pound forward finished his Canadian college hockey career and played 14 games in the ECHL; two with the Orlando Solar Bears, four with the Everblades, and the final eight with the Rush.

"As soon as I got to Rapid City, I had a feeling that the team was moving in the right direction, and that my style of play would fit right in," Bilton commented. "Last season was an interesting season for me. You realize quickly that a lot of things are out of your control, and you have to show up every day and work as hard as you can to earn your spot. Last year was a great taste of the pro game, and I plan to use that extra confidence to succeed this year."

"I traded for Liam because of his size and his willingness to forecheck stood out to me," Rush Head Coach Daniel Tetrault said of Bilton's re-signing. "Liam is a very young talent that still has much to learn about the pro game, but his compete level will be a valuable asset to both our team and himself during this process. I'm interested to see what he brings to camp, and what he learns about being a professional heading into his first full professional season."

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Bilton transitioned to the professional ranks last season at the conclusion of his Canadian college hockey career at the University of Manitoba. He played in 99 games with the Bison, and earned 25 goals, 20 assists, 45 points, and 119 PIM. Before playing in college, Bilton enjoyed a successful junior career in the MJHL with the Winnipeg Blues for three seasons, amassing 93 points in 153 games while claiming the 2014 MJHL Championship.

Johnson begins his professional career following a tremendous senior season of NCAA-III hockey. The 5'9", 170-pound forward concluded his college hockey career with Lebanon Valley College, where in 26 games he posted 19 goals, 21 assists, and 40 points, finishing with averages just under an assist-per-game and two-points-per-game.

"I decided to start my professional career in Rapid City because it's a great opportunity to go to a great organization and compete. The coaching staff stressed how eager they are to develop young rookies," Johnson said of his decision to sign with the Rush. "Transitioning from NCAA-III, I think my scoring will translate well with the way I play. I'm going to bring speed and offensive creativity, and play hard to contain on the ice. My expectations are fairly simple: show up to the rink with a purpose, and work hard. I look forward to winning a lot of games in Rapid City!"

"Brett has the potential to be a serious threat for us in his rookie season of pro hockey," Tetrault continued on his decision to sign Johnson. "The first thing you notice about Brett on the ice is his speed. He's wicked fast with and without the puck, and that makes him lethal everywhere. He's a superb skater, has a great shot, and a knack for scoring clutch goals. We're very excited to have a young, hungry player of Brett's caliber that can't wait to begin his professional career."

Originally from Middletown, New Jersey, Johnson was a standout at the NCAA-III level with Morrisville State College and Lebanon Valley College. With the latter, he played his final three seasons and averaged over a point-per-game each year, finishing his entire college career with 104 points (49g-55ast) in 97 games. Twice he was named both MAC First Team All-Conference (2018, 2019) and to UCHC All-Star Teams (Second Team in 2018, First Team in 2019). Additionally, he finished his senior season in 2018-19 as the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.

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