SAN JOSE, Calif. -- University of Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson, the third overall draft pick in 2005, signed a multiyear contract with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Johnson is expected to make his NHL debut when the Kings host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
Johnson's arrival will be perhaps the last bright spot in another gloomy season for the Kings, who are in 13th place in the Western Conference. Los Angeles lost 3-1 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
The Kings acquired Johnson from the Carolina Hurricanes last Sept. 29 along with defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky in a trade for center Eric Belanger and defenseman Tim Gleason.
An aggressive defenseman with an impressive shot and a surly streak, Johnson is widely thought to be one of hockey's top prospects -- but his reluctance to leave Michigan to sign with the Hurricanes prompted the trade. Six months later, Johnson is ready to begin his NHL career with a team that desperately needs him.
"It's great for our team and fans, because you need talented players to win," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "All reports are that he's a very talented player. He's a very passionate player, and we can use an influx of both for our team."
Johnson, a high school teammate of NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby, scored 39 points for the Wolverines and earned a spot on the CCHA's all-conference first team while still taking time to play for the U.S. national team in the world junior championships.
Michigan's season ended Saturday with a loss to North Dakota in the NCAA Tournament's regional semifinals.
After signing his lucrative entry-level contract, Johnson will practice Wednesday with the Kings. He will wear No. 33 in his debut game.
Los Angeles has used the final weeks of its losing season to promote several of the club's top prospects. Seven skaters in the Kings' loss to San Jose are under 25 years old, including promising center Anze Kopitar, leading scorer Michael Cammalleri and defenseman Joe Piskula, who played his third NHL game against the Sharks.
"Everyone knows the depth of our young forwards, and we're getting a couple of defensemen to match that," Crawford said. "When you can get that type of talent together, you can build on the cohesiveness of the group."