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Johnson Quickly Makes L.A. Shift

October 01, 2006|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Jack Johnson was moving quickly, not as a defenseman on the ice but as a student leaving his English class at the University of Michigan, crystallizing the day's assignments as he left the classroom.

"I had papers to write and everything, and all of a sudden my cell phone started ringing," he said.

Johnson's life had changed. He was told the Carolina Hurricanes, who had drafted him third overall in 2005, had traded him to the Kings. The calls kept coming. Jack Skille, a friend and teammate from the United States Development program was first. Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford was next. Then came Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi.

"The L.A. Kings, the spotlight, the marketing there, I was thinking this was a great opportunity," said Johnson, a 19-year old sophomore. "I know some of the players out there, like Patrick O'Sullivan, Dustin Brown. I skated with Mathieu Garon last summer. I'm going to love it whenever I do get a chance to play in L.A."

The Kings would like that to be sooner rather than later, but are prepared to wait for a player who may develop into a high-end offensive defenseman.

Lombardi has spent a good chunk of time replenishing the Kings' depth with young players who have plenty of potential.

For example, he acquired the 21-year-old O'Sullivan, last season's American Hockey League rookie of the year, in a draft-day trade that also included a second first-round pick.

The wheeling and dealing, in fact, has given the Kings four first-round picks from the last two drafts: Johnson and center Anze Kopitar, the 11th player taken in the 2005 draft, and forward Trevor Lewis and goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who were first-round picks last June.

"I have to see the team immediately in front of me, but I also have to be concerned with the vision," Lombardi said.

He didn't need bifocals to see what kind of player Johnson could become.

"He certainly has the potential to play in the top three" on defense, Lombardi said. "The most important thing is that within his peer group, he is one of the top prospects.

"But I'm not saying he's Scott Niedermayer or anything like that."

But judging by the company Johnson keeps, he's not Oscar Mayer, either. Three summers ago, Johnson and long-time friend Sidney Crosby came to the Kings' prospects camp. The two were teammates at Shattuck St. Mary's, a Minnesota prep school.

Johnson's skills were apparent during the 2006 World Junior Championships, where his combination of finesse and power were key elements in getting the U.S. to the bronze medal game.

"I have things to improve," he said. "It's not one thing, like skating or shooting or passing, but being a student of the game I always pick up things to work on. When I get in a Kings uniform, I want to be as good as I can possibly be."


Marek Svatos scored one of Colorado's three first-period goals and had the lone goal in a shootout to give the Avalanche a 4-3 victory over the Kings in the final exhibition game for both teams.

Milan Hejduk and Tyler Arnason also scored for the host Avalanche (5-1).

Jeff Cowan scored twice and Lauri Tukonen added a goal for the Kings (4-1-1), all in the second period. Dan Cloutier made 40 saves.


Joel Perrault scored a power-play goal with 24.8 seconds left in overtime to lift the host Phoenix Coyotes past the Ducks, 2-1, in both teams' final exhibition.

Ed Jovanovski faked a shot from the top of the right circle before passing to Perrault at the bottom of the circle. Perrault one-timed the puck off Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the tight angle for the game-winner.

Samuel Pahlsson scored for the Ducks, who finished the preseason 3-2-3.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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