Exclusive Interview With Penguins Prospect Nick Johnson
Jesse Marshall: Letâ€™s look back to when you were drafted, you did two years in the AJHL, do you feel like that time you spent in Alberta Juniors prepared you for the jump to the collegiate level and a higher level of competition?
Nick Johnson: Yeah, I did that in high school for two years. Going from midget to junior was a big jump, it really helped me mature. I feel like just having that 60 games a year and a higher level of hockey just really helped develop my game. It helps me get ready for every game in college.
JM: What lead you to Dartmouth College versus playing in the CHL?
NJ: My motherâ€™s from Boston, so although I was from Western Canada, I knew there were good schools in the Boston area and my parents actually went to Dartmouth, so that was a big part of it. They were really open about what school I went to, they never pressured me to go to Dartmouth at all. I just knew a lot about Eastern U.S. schools, obviously a lot of these schools down here are pretty good. I feel like I maybe knew a little more than the average person in Western Canada did about Eastern College hockey. I just remember Dartmouth was very interested in me and it just seemed like a good fit, a good school. It just seemed like Iâ€™d get a chance right away to play, and I did so it just kind of fit into place I guess.
JM: Whatâ€™s your major?
JM: Looking back at your experience of getting drafted, did you feel like youâ€™d get taken 67th overall? Did you have any expectations as far as that was concerned?
NJ: At the start of the year, I talked to a few scouts and I was pretty confident Iâ€™d get drafted 2nd or 3rd round. I had a pretty good year, got injured a little bit, but it was a good year. I played pretty well most of the year. I think the first Central Scouting that came out had me 65th, I continued to get injured a little bit but had an okay second half. I dropped down to 75th, but when the draft came along I was very happy to go in the third round. I didnâ€™t go to the draft, but I was definitely surprised. I think that was the highest I expected myself to get drafted and I was pretty happy about that. I never thought Iâ€™d go first round or second round, really. In the third round I thought I could get in there. When I was drafted there it was really, really relieving and exciting.
JM: You grew up in Western Canada obviously, were you a fan of the Flames? Was that a team you had your fingers crossed for?
NJ: A little bit. I actually grew up not really liking the Flames, I liked the Kings. I liked Gretzky. But I started liking the Flames somewhere in the middle of their playoff drought when they hadnâ€™t made the playoffs in like 7 years, I for some reason started liking them then. By the time I was getting close to getting drafted I would have definitely liked to go the Flames. But I was really just looking for an opportunity to play anywhere and the Penguins have a great history and a good team so Iâ€™m very happy about that. Getting drafted by a Western Canadian team would have been cool, but I really didnâ€™t think much of it. Itâ€™s obviously terrific to be a Penguin.
JM: That leads right into my next question, you obviously said Wayne Gretzky, but did you have any NHL idols besides that in Calgary?
NJ: Gretzky was kinda obviously the man. I liked Mario a lot, watching him win those two cups was something else, he pretty much dominated the whole playoffs. Those two guys were kinda my early, early Idols. I had some favorites, but obviously Mario, Gretzky, and Bure. L.A. guys as well, guys like Robitaille and Rob Blake. I definitely enjoyed those guys.
JM: If you had to describe yourself as a player to people back in Pittsburgh that donâ€™t watch you play, how would you describe Nick Johnson as a player?
NJ: Iâ€™d say Iâ€™m a good offensive guy. I can move pretty well, Iâ€™m not the most agile guy but I can get the puck to the net. Agility is what I need to work most on but I can skate. Iâ€™m pretty creative. The things that have changed about me are that Iâ€™ve gotten a lot bigger and stronger and Iâ€™m becoming a very reliable guy in the offensive zone.
JM: Has the Penguins organization been in touch you with regarding next year at all?
NJ: Yeah, Tom Fitzgerald as you know is the new director of Player Development. He comes to some games and we talk on the phone a lot. We chatted about whatâ€™s to be expected of me trying to become a pro, just some things I need to work on. Just whatâ€™s expected of me from here on out. I need to keep working. I need a good work ethic to get to the NHL, stuff like that. Heâ€™s been really helpful.
JM: Do you and J.T. Wyman (MTL) talk about your future as potential NHLâ€™ers at all?
NJ: Yeah, we definitely talk a little. Last year we had 7 guys on the team that were drafted, it definitely helps to talk to guys like that. We talk about what itâ€™s like being in camps and we compare stories about camps, compare how the teams run. It can really help. We just try to help each other.
JM: Easy stuff now. Favorite movie?
NJ: Sin City.
JM: Favorite Band?
NJ: Pearl Jam.
JM: Favorite Food?
NJ: Iâ€™m a steak and potatoes kinda guy.
JM: If you had to choose a career outside of hockey, what would it be?
NJ: Thatâ€™s tough. Iâ€™d always want to be involved in hockey. If not, I guess it would have to be something challenging. Maybe something like the medical field or psychology. Those both seem fun.
Nick Johnson’s Career Dartmouth Statistics:
2004/05: 35GP – 18G – 17A – 35PTS – 16PIM
2005/06: 33GP – 15G – 10A – 25PTS – 24PIM
2006/07: 33GP – 14G – 16A – 30PTS – 46PIM
2006/07: 16GP – 4G – 13A – 17PTS – 10PIM
Thanks to Nick Johnson for providing us with the opportunity to talk to him. Faceoff Factor wishes him the best of luck in his senior year. Stay tuned for more exclusive interviews from Faceoff Factor!