It hasn’t taken Jack Johnson long to settle into his new surroundings.
The Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman feels at home with his new team, having been acquired just prior to the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s been great,” Johnson said prior to Wednesday’s encounter against the Edmonton Oilers. “I was able to find a place in Columbus, I’m starting to find my way around the city and I’m feeling comfortable at the rink.
“The guys around made it really easy for me to come to the locker room every day. It’s hard to believe I’ve only been here for three weeks, I feel like I’ve been around for a lot longer than that.”
Johnson, 25, was acquired by the Blue Jackets in late February along with a first-round pick in exchange for Jeff Carter.
The third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Johnson figured there was a possibility of leaving Los Angeles, especially considering how much the Kings were struggling.
“You kind of knew the way things were going, with the lowest-scoring team in the league, something was going to give,” Johnson said. “I knew something was going to happen. All you can do is try to be prepared for it and I felt I was prepared for it.”
The Kings were looking for someone to help them reignite things offensively, while the Blue Jackets were looking for a cornerstone in their rebuilding process.
Johnson has come in and fit the bill well, allowed to be more himself in Columbus than he was in Los Angeles.
“It’s a completely different role, it’s a role where they’re allowing me to be me and be the kind of player that I’ve always been, they’re not trying to change me in any way,” Johnson said. “They’re allowing me to play in all situations, which is what I wanted to do. I didn’t get a chance to do that in Los Angeles. As an athlete, I have a lot of pride and I want to be in those situations and I want to play as much as I can.”
In Columbus, Johnson is playing on the club’s top defensive pairing alongside James Wisniewski. He’s on the top power-play unit and killing penalties. With the Kings, Johnson had to take a backseat to Drew Doughty.
“With Jack, I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards. “I had spent a little bit of time with him, I had a chance to watch him play quite a bit on the opposing team, but you don’t get a real feel for the type of person he is and how he’s going to fit into the group.
“He’s been impressive on both ends, as far as how he’s played the game and how he’s carried himself and how he’s represented himself with the other guys on the team. He’s been much more than what we expected.”
Despite going from a team in the playoff hunt to one languishing in last place, Johnson is excited about being a big part of the Blue Jackets future.
The team is expected to trade captain Rick Nash this summer and head in a new direction.
“It’s an opportunity when you’re trying to reshape a team, it’s a rare chance to get a chance to remold a team the way you want to do it,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t happen too often in professional sports.
“It’s an unfortunate situation, but at the same time you have to look at it in a positive light. You get a chance to build a new culture around here and I’m excited about the opportunity to be part of the solution.”