Ex-Pens coach Johnston expected to return to WHL Portland

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Things have come full circle for Mike Johnston.

Johnston, fired by Pittsburgh midway through the regular season, looks like he’s headed back to the place he’s enjoyed the greatest success of his coaching career — WHL Portland.

Johnston will reportedly be introduced as the Winterhawks’ new head coach and general manager on Wednesday, per various outlets. The move returns Johnston to the same club he coached from 2008-14, sending a number of talented youngsters to the NHL: Seth Jones, Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi and Derrick Pouliot, to name a few.

Hired by Pens GM Jim Rutherford two years ago, Johnston never really clicked in Pittsburgh. He had a respectable record — 58-37-15 — but the team always seemed to be underachieving with him in charge, and was hovering on the edge of the playoff picture upon his dismissal.

Since taking over for Johnston, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan has enjoyed tremendous success, and has the club back in the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013.