Lincoln Stars vs. Sioux City Musketeers hockey game

Lincoln's Paul LaDue (left) skates past Sioux City's Kyle Schmidt during a game in 2013 at the Ice Box. LaDue signed an NHL entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings last week.

Journal Star file photo

Paul LaDue looked down at a piece of paper Friday, stared at it for a bit and made sure he crossed his T's and dotted his I's.

LaDue's signature was now on an NHL entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

That same day, his cousin, Luke Johnson, made the same decision to bypass his senior season at North Dakota, instead signing a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Honestly, we never even talked about it,” LaDue said. “I mean, I think we each had an idea in the back of our heads and it just came up as the right opportunity.”

LaDue, like Johnson a former Lincoln Star, finds the timing funny, because the cousins have pretty much done everything together.

LaDue shared an early love for the Lincoln Stars with his cousin, watching uncle Steve Johnson (Luke's father) coach the Stars the first 11 years of the franchise.

Luke would come back to Grand Forks, North Dakota, in the offseason to visit LaDue, where their true "brotherly" hockey careers began.

“I have two sisters, so whenever Luke and Max (Luke's younger brother) where back, it was like having two brothers I never had,” LaDue said. “We were always close and just really good friends.”

From then on, LaDue and Johnson were pretty much inseparable.

After playing together at Grand Forks Central High, Paul and Luke found themselves playing for uncle Chad Johnson, who took over as head coach of the Stars in 2010.

Luke was the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 USHL Draft. LaDue was taken 15 rounds later as the 226th pick.

In 2013, both left for North Dakota, helping the Hawks to the 2016 NCAA championship.

“It was unbelievable," LaDue said. “That championship hasn't really even set in yet. Going from a Grand Forks native and die-hard Stars fan was amazing and to do it with Luke also. We had a great group of guys and we didn't want to go away with anything less.”

As both LaDue and Johnson prepare for the next step in their careers, the Stars prepare for the next set of draft picks, taking part in the USHL Draft on Monday and Tuesday.

The Stars kept it all in the Johnson family when they drafted Luke Johnson's brother Max in the ninth round Monday.


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