Michigan’s 8-5 loss to North Dakota Saturday night at the Denver regional was the swan song game for seven Michigan seniors and now, it appears sophomore defenseman Jack Johnson is also leaving Ann Arbor — but for the NHL.
According to the Michigan Daily, Johnson flew to Los Angeles after the game to join the Kings, while the rest of the Wolverines flew back to Michigan.
“I thought I was ready for a new challenge,” Johnson told the paper. “With all my close friends, the seniors, gone now and everything, I thought it was time for me to pretty much go for a new challenge.”
The 20-year-old Ann Arbor native came to Michigan having already been drafted third overall (wearing a Michigan-themed tie) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Johnson reportedly almost signed with Carolina that summer, but he stood behind his decision to play for the Wolverines. The Hurricanes made numerous contract offers to Johnson throughout his freshman year, but Johnson turned them all down, even telling the Ann Arbor media that the only way he was leaving Yost Ice Arena would be a gunpoint.
Last October, after Johnson had rejected yet another offer from the defending Stanley Cup champions, Carolina traded his rights and defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky to Los Angeles for forward Eric Belanger and defenseman Tim Gleason.
Johnson, named this year’s Best Offensive Defenseman in the CCHA, said he told Michigan head coach Red Berenson of his decision a week ago. Johnson said he intends on still getting his degree from Michigan and will always bleed maize and blue.
“I have no regrets about coming here, being a Wolverine,” Johnson added. “I’m still proud as hell to be one.”
Johnson, who said his contract is done with just the bonuses to be negotiated, looks to make his NHL debut Tuesday night in San Jose.