By Jaroslav Modry
One of the most impressive things I’ve noticed about Jack Johnson, my rookie defense partner, is his maturity and the level he plays at every night. He’s consistent and he carries himself really well for his age.
Jack had a lot of experience playing games at the international and junior level that meant a lot and you learn from those experiences over the years. It’s special to play at the NHL level, though, and he has done really well so far.
Those few games (five) he played with us at the end of last season definitely helped him realize what it’s like to compete in the NHL. Experiencing the atmosphere and the pressure of games and practices, I’m sure, helped him for this season.
Our coach in Los Angeles, Marc Crawford, has paired us up together this season and I try to give Jack a pointer or two here and there of what I’ve learned over the years. It’s special for me to play with him. When I was younger, I remember the guys I played with when I first came into the league. They helped me a lot and I want to help Jack as much as I can.
I’m pretty predictable and steady on the ice and I think that helps him find his rhythm, which will help him out at the start of his career. Off the ice, I can help him with my experience and I try to show him how to get prepared for every game and practice.
But it’s a learning experience for both of us and I’m enjoying the opportunity to play with him. He brings a lot to the game. He likes to hang onto the puck and spin around with it; stuff I used to do. Now, I try to keep everything simple, but at the same time I tell myself, ‘Hey, it’s good to try something extra and bring something new.’
Jack’s intelligence is really awesome and it rubs off on you. And he’s looking for help here and there, too. So it’s great to be paired with him.
Starting out in the NHL on defense is very tough, but with time comes knowledge. Your mistakes are magnified. If you misplay or misread the play, there’s only the goalie behind you. You try to create offensive chances with a good first pass.
You have to be mature for this position. It takes time to realize what you need to bring every night and sometimes you need to realize less is more. But you learn that over the years. You don’t realize it until you go through it. It’s hard to explain all the little details, but you realize it as you go through the process.
And so far, Jack is doing just fine.
Born in Ceske-Budejovice of the former Czechoslovakia, defenseman Jaroslav Modry is in his second tour of duty with the Kings. Drafted in the ninth round (179th overall) by the Devils in 1990, Modry has played for N.J., Ottawa, Atlanta, Dallas and L.A. during his NHL career. For more information on the Kings, visit lakings.com.