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Sunday, July 31, 2005

It appears that this year's main candidate for a sickening, heart-rending early departure is Jack Johnson, who hasn't even shown up yet. Johnson was selected third in yesterday's NHL draft by the Carolina Hurricanes and he's going to be pressed to sign, like, right goddamn now:

Johnson had a Michigan tie on when he went to the podium to shake hands with the Carolina brass.

"I guess he can take that off," joked Rutherford. "We'll have discussions with him and his family and try to decide what is best for him. I would like to have the opportunity to talk to Jack about signing and getting started in Lowell because I think it would be a huge jump for him to play in the National Hockey League immediately."

Johnson said he would likely decide within the next week whether he'll go to college or turn pro.

"It won't be money," Johnson said. "It will be what I personally think is best for my development. I don't want to jump the gun too soon. I want to make sure I do the right thing. I'm pretty sure I'll have the right gut feeling. There is no rush."
So the Canes are definitely going to try to sign him. They'll offer the rookie cap. The only question is whether Johnson really wants to play for Michigan. No doubt Johnson will be talking to Aaron Ward and Danny Richmond, both ex-Michigan players currently with the Hurricanes. There's a snippet in the article regarding them:
Johnson has been skating recently in pickup games with Carolina defenseman Aaron Ward, who also attended the University of Michigan.

"I'll have some interesting conversations with him now, something to break the ice with," Johnson said. "I'm still kind of in awe of guys who play in the NHL so I kept my mouth shut and if he was open I always passed to him."

The Hurricanes also selected Michigan defenseman Danny Richmond with the 31st overall pick in 2003. Richmond could be ready to crack the Carolina defensive corps this season if he's gotten stronger in the offseason.
Strength was never Richmond's problem at Michigan. His problem was his general lack of interest in defense--a problem for a defenseman. I had heard that Richmond regretted his decision to leave Michigan for the OHL but he was clearly aiming to sign ASAP.

Neither Ward nor Richmond will really have much impact, though. Johnson probably knows exactly what he'll do right now. He just has to come to terms with it. He's been a future Wolverine for more than three years now. We'll find out in a week whether he ever ends up an actual Wolverine.