Jack Johnson was born in Indianapolis. He played college hockey at the University of Michigan. He’s also the newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the self-proclaimed “Midwestern boy at heart” could not be happier to continue his career in Ohio.
The 25-year-old blue liner was acquired by the Blue Jackets in a Thursday night trade with the Los Angeles Kings along with a conditional first-round draft pick. Johnson, the third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft (behind Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan) is currently in his fifth full season and is regarded as one of the most promising two-way defensemen in hockey.
He is coming off 36 and 42-point campaigns the last two seasons in Los Angeles, and through 61 games this year, has recorded 24 points that tie with Fedor Tyutin for the team lead in scoring among defensemen.
“My first reaction is that I like the deal for the Columbus Blue Jackets,” said TSN analyst Marc Crawford, who coached Johnson for two seasons in Los Angeles. “They’ve got Tyutin, Methot, Wisniewski…and now you add Jack Johnson, who’s a great offensive defenseman. He’s never been given the opportunity to be the premier guy, playing being Drew Doughty and other offensive guys they have in Los Angeles.
“I think Jack has always wanted to be the premier guy, and this may be an opportunity for him to be the guy – and they get a first-round pick. He moves well, he walks the blue line quite well and can run a power play. He does a lot of things that you really like.”
The Blue Jackets felt the same way, and in Johnson, they got a player who is thrilled to come to Columbus and be part of the present and future of the team. Johnson is signed for the next six years with his contract ending in 2018, solidifying his role on the Columbus blue line for years to come.
For him, there’s no better place to start the next chapter of his career than a Midwestern city like Columbus.
“I’m a Midwest kid,” Johnson said, a smile creeping across his face. “It’s great to be back here, be close to home and close to friends and family. Like I said before, when a trade happens, that means a team wants you. That’s a great feeling to come into a place where they want you and I’m looking forward to giving them everything I have to offer.
“I want to be a big part of every team I ever play on, and I want to be a big part of this team having success and winning for a long time. I’m excited about the possibilities I have here."
As the final step to completing the trade, both Johnson and the departed Jeff Carter had to take physical examinations by their new clubs. Johnson finished his part of the process Friday night at Nationwide Arena, and Carter passed his physical with the Kings on Saturday afternoon. Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards – who was an assistant coach with Johnson on Team USA at the 2010 IIHF World Hockey Championships – said he fully expects his newest defenseman to be ready to play Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.
“I want to get going here as soon as possible,” Johnson said. “I know (James) Wisniewski a little bit; we live near each other during the summers and we’ve skated together a couple of times. I know most of these guys as players and I’m looking forward to getting know them as people. I’d be thrilled (to pair with Wisniewski); I know he’s a competitive, emotional guy and I think you can’t have enough of that on a hockey team. He’s a great player and has a lot of talents.”
Johnson is known around the NHL as one of the game’s best puck-rushing defensemen, a player who can join the attack at any time and create a second wave of offense. That’s a big part of his game, he admitted, but the most important thing to him is improving inside his own blue line.
“I want to be a guy who plays in all situations,” Johnson said. “I’m not really a rah-rah guy, but I’m a pretty emotional player. I don’t like losing, that’s for sure, and I want to do everything I can to help this team win every single night.
“I try to play a skilled game and a gritty game too. I want to be a complete player, and I’m working every day toward that.”