As a decorated veteran of international competition, Los Angeles Kings
defenseman Jack Johnson
has proven himself on many of the world's great hockey stages. The Olympics, however, are another story.
"I've been fortunate enough to play in every tournament there is for my country, except for the Olympics," said the 23-year-old defenseman. "Having that (experience) gives me a good heads-up on what to expect, but obviously, the Olympics is a bigger stage than any of those, so far. It's the biggest stage in the world."
His resume as a representative of his country is lengthy.
Johnson led the United States team with 5 goals at the 2009 World Championships last spring and also appeared in the 2007 tournament. Prior to that, he won a bronze at the 2007 World Junior Championship, and in the 2006 WJC he was named to the tournament all-star team. He won gold at the 2005 and silver at the 2004 World Under-18 Championships.
With three medals, only fellow Olympian Ryan Suter
has won as many in international play.
Three other new Olympians, including Bobby Ryan
, Phil Kessel
and Erik Johnson
(no relation) earned bronze alongside Johnson at the 2007 WJC.
"All of us have played together at some point, pretty much," Johnson said. "It's going to be an easy locker room to go into and I think that we're not going to have a problem just going out and doing our thing."
Team USA will feature only five players over age 30, and there will be only three players with Olympic experience (Chris Drury
, Brian Rafalski
and captain Jamie Langenbrunner
"There are a few guys that I haven't played with before, (including) Drury and Langenbrunner," Johnson said. "Guys who I look forward to getting to know better and having a friendship that lasts a long time. We're going to have an immediate bond when we get in that (dressing) room. I'm looking forward to getting to know the older guys who I haven't had the privilege of playing with yet."
At the onset of the Olympics, Team USA is considered a legitimate medal threat, but commonly viewed as one rung lower than Canada or Russia. Nonetheless, Johnson likes his team's chances.
"We're going to be facing some great hockey teams (and) there are a lot of distractions at the Olympics," he said. "It's a huge event. The biggest thing for us, we're a young group, we all know each other pretty well. The biggest thing for us is to stay focused as a group. We have a common goal."
The post-lockout NHL, with its low tolerance for clutching and grabbing, well-suits the young U.S. lineup as it prepares for international officiating.
"Whatever way the officiating sways, we can play," Johnson said. "I think this team's been put together for this tournament specifically. We can all play whether it's tight officiating or not. I strongly believe that this team can play however we need to. We're a good skating club. (We're) strong, energetic, and hungry to win."
After a stint at Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Faribault, Minn., Johnson spent two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program. During that time, he gained experience playing against older players in the North American Hockey League, as well as international play.
"I've been fortunate enough to play in every tournament there is for my country, except for the Olympics. Having that (experience) gives me a good heads-up on what to expect, but obviously, the Olympics is a bigger stage than any of those, so far. It's the biggest stage in the world." -- Jack Johnson
"(The USNTDP) was instrumental in my career," Johnson said. "Not only on the ice, but off the ice as well, in the weight room. They really show you how to train and commit yourself to becoming a hockey player, and as a person, too.
"Obviously, the hockey training is great, I think it's the best program for juniors and seniors in the country, no question. It's fantastic, the coaching you get, the tutoring for school, everything. It's the complete program."
The Carolina Hurricanes
took him with the third pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, and after two strong seasons at the University of Michigan -- he earned 2006 CCHA all-rookie honors and 2007 CCHA first all-star team and NCAA West first all-American team honors -- he was dealt to the Kings.