Jack and his draft stock

CHRIS NICHOLS -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 12:53 AM ET

When Jack Johnson puts his mind to something, watch out.

The smooth-skating USNTDP rearguard has been climbing the draft rankings all year and now he's planted firmly where he set his sights at the start of the season - in the number two slot, right behind good friend Sidney Crosby.

Johnson started the season fifth overall on the McKeen's Top 100, edged up to fourth in November and now with the latest ranking has leapfrogged several players into second for the Class of 2005. Johnson is both the highest rated American and defenseman in the Holiday Draft Update, just released by McKeensHockey.com

"We (Crosby and him) were together at the L.A. Kings rookie camp and we talked about that and set that as a goal as the high bar to reach and we'll see if everything works out," explained Johnson.

The actual status of this summer's NHL draft is still up in the air because of the lockout, but you can bet when he does get drafted his new GM will be talking about the total package that his team just acquired.

Speed, power and poise: Johnson is truly an all-around threat on the ice.

He trains hard in the off-season to continually increase his leg strength and you can see the results of that work in his explosive first step and fluid skating stride.

"My dad has always brought me up saying speed kills," noted Johnson. "The game of hockey is all about speed and to me it's extremely important. I think my style of game is based on a fast pace and being at high speed through the whole shift and never slowing down. "

THE APPLE DOESN'T FALL FAR

Johnson credits his dad, also named Jack, with teaching him everything he knows. The elder Johnson was an NHL player himself, getting drafted by Chicago and then playing with the Canadiens and Rangers. When you speak with the younger Johnson for any length of time, you see that he got more than the name and good hockey genes from his father. His dad has done an excellent job of showing Johnson how to stay focused on the job at hand and how to put aside the extraneous distractions that come with being a high draft pick.

"He's really taught me that with any success I get to take it in stride," said Johnson.

"Put everything in perspective and never stray away from your dreams and goals. At a time like this you only get one shot and you don't want to look back and have regrets or anything. You don't want to say to yourself, 'if only I worked a little harder or didn't get distracted'. This is too important to get distracted."

Johnson had a chance to skate against some NHL stars in a recent charity game and he seized the opportunity after the game to speak with perennial Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom about anything and everything he could think of at the time. He also relished the chance to go head-to-head with his boyhood idol: Chris Chelios. Growing up, Johnson had a Blackhawks jersey with Chelios' number seven on it and finally being able to skate on the same ice with the legendary defenseman was something he'll never forget.

"It was awesome, so cool," Johnson remembered. "He was playing center in the game, just messing around and I remember skating up to him and he slashed me and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. (Laughs). It was awesome."

RED, WHITE AND BLUE

While the highlight of the month had to be that charity game and skating against the pros, the lowest point had to be when Johnson wasn't selected to Team USA's World Junior Championship roster. While it shows the depth of the American hockey program, it still stung a little for the young defenseman. Despite that though, he took it in stride.

"It was kind of a bummer," he told McKeen's. "When I found out I wasn't selected, I was like 'yeah, all right, whatever'. I went to the camp and I feel like I had a good showing. I tried my hardest and felt like I didn't leave any stone unturned. It was out of my hands and they just felt like I wasn't the right fit for the team and I understand that. There's always next year and I'll just go back at it next year. I just take it in stride and I have to keep working hard this year."

WJC's or not, Johnson says he's looking forward to answering the call for his country whenever it comes. In fact, aside from World Cups or World Championships, his dream has always been to play in the Olympics.

Seeing the talent and dedication he puts forward each time he hits the ice leaves you with the feeling he'll get that chance one day.

To check out the rest of the 2005 draft crop in the fresh Holiday Draft Update, visit McKeensHockey.com

Chris can be reached at chris_nichols@canoemail.com

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