BY MARK GIANNOTTO
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 17, 2006
During their training in the summer and the night before in their hotel room, Sidney and Jack talked about what it would be like to go back-to-back at the top of the draft. But it was all for naught. The Mighty Ducks opted for forward Bobby Ryan. The Carolina Hurricanes then grabbed Jack with the No. 3 pick.
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"It was all dependent on what a team wanted - a forward or a defenseman," Johnson said. "We knew anything could happen, so we weren't really worried about it."
Just like after their successful year at Shattuck-St. Mary's, Sidney and Jack went their separate ways after the draft. Sidney went right to the NHL, where he has become a star for the Penguins. Through 45 games, the dynamic forward has posted 50 points (21 goals, 29 assists) and is a leading contender for NHL Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, Jack decided to delay his NHL career to play for Michigan. Through 21 games, Johnson has 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists), tying him for the lead in points among CCHA defensemen. Considering their backgrounds, each player's decisions make sense.
"Jack grew up with his goal to play college hockey at Michigan," Jack Sr. said. "And Sidney's goal was to make it to the NHL as fast as he could. Sidney and most Canadians are more inclined to do junior hockey than thinking of college hockey."
But through all the different towns, schools and teams one thing has remained constant for Crosby and Johnson: their friendship. The two talk on the phone at least once a week and try to see each other whenever their schedules allow it. When the Penguins played the Detroit Red Wings earlier this season, Jack went to visit Sidney.
"The night before the game I went out to dinner with him," Johnson said. "He actually treated me to dinner, thank God. We just hung out and talked about what life was like for us now. He's still the same kid he was back in 10th grade. He hasn't changed anything. Watching him play was pretty neat, thinking that two or three years ago, I was playing high school hockey with him."
The success Sidney is having at the professional level has never made Jack question his decision to come to Michigan. It appears that Johnson is firmly entrenched as a Wolverine defenseman for at least the next few years. Instead of thinking about an early jump to the NHL, Jack is just happy for his friend.
"I know that we are two different players who have developed at two different rates, and obviously, he has developed more quickly," Johnson said. "And I'm in no rush to make the next step to the NHL. We respect each other's decisions, and I don't think it has affected our friendship at all. It's been fun keeping track of all he's doing."