SAN JOSE, Calif. -- University of Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson, the third overall draft pick in 2005, signed a multiyear
contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Johnson is expected to make his NHL debut when the Kings host
the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
Johnson's arrival will be perhaps the last bright spot in
another gloomy season for the Kings, who are in 13th place in the
Western Conference. Los Angeles lost 3-1 to the San Jose Sharks on
An aggressive defenseman with an impressive shot and a surly
streak, Johnson is widely thought to be one of hockey's top
prospects -- but his reluctance to leave Michigan to sign with the
Hurricanes prompted the trade. Six months later, Johnson is ready
to begin his NHL career with a team that desperately needs him.
"It's great for our team and fans, because you need talented
players to win," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "All reports are
that he's a very talented player. He's a very passionate player,
and we can use an influx of both for our team."
Johnson, a high school teammate of NHL scoring leader Sidney
Crosby, scored 39 points for the Wolverines and earned a spot on
the CCHA's all-conference first team while still taking time to
play for the U.S. national team in the world junior championships.
Michigan's season ended Saturday with a loss to North Dakota in
the NCAA tournament's regional semifinals.
After signing his lucrative entry-level contract, Johnson will
practice Wednesday with the Kings. He will wear No. 33 in his debut
Los Angeles has used the final weeks of its losing season to
promote several of the club's top prospects. Seven skaters in the
Kings' loss to San Jose are under 25 years old, including promising
center Anze Kopitar, leading scorer Michael Cammalleri and
defenseman Joe Piskula, who played his third NHL game against the
"Everyone knows the depth of our young forwards, and we're
getting a couple of defensemen to match that," Crawford said.
"When you can get that type of talent together, you can build on
the cohesiveness of the group."