It’s been over two months since the Florida Panthers shocked the hockey world when they selected forward Aleskander Barkov over the presumed 2nd overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Seth Jones. Since that fateful day, seemingly everyone has now all but forgotten the draft day surprise – everyone but Seth Jones that is.
Once thought to be the surefire number one pick in June’s draft, Jones ended up falling all the way to the Nashville Predators who held the fourth overall selection. While being the fourth overall pick is hardly something to scoff at, given both the skills and hype that Jones had coming into draft day, it’s easy to see why the young defenseman may feel slighted.
“It’s definitely in the back of my head. That’s human nature,” Jones said when asked if he has an extra chip on his shoulder while playing against the Panthers. “You want to make the teams regret not taking you. But at the same time it’s not on my priority list.”
Well, even if revenge wasn’t on his mind, the Predators’ 8-4 Rookie Tournament victory over the Panthers on Friday must have tasted pretty sweet to the young blue liner. In what may be the day he’ll look back on as the start of his great career, Jones was fairly quiet on the ice in his first competitive game in a Predator uniform. Even after a lackluster first period, Jones proved to be a reliable offensive-defenseman and was even able to get off a few slap shots that caught the attention of every bystander within a five mile radius of the rink.
“I felt pretty good. I think everyone was trying to get back into it after the summer,” Jones said of his first game as a Predator. “After the 1st period we really started realizing the season was starting again. It was good to get out there and get a feel for the puck.”
Amazingly, even though the young Panther rookies allowed eight goals on Friday, Jones did not record a point on any of the Predators’ scores. While Jones hopes to be a stalwart defenseman first and foremost, he still hopes to be able to join the rush on Predator breakouts and showcase his offensive game that made him such a delight to watch in the WHL last season.
“I think you obviously have to be smart about it in the NHL. I think that’s the major difference between the Juniors and the NHL,” Jones said of his plans to incorporate his offensive skillset into the NHL this upcoming season. “Everyone is much better and faster at the NHL level, so you cannot make the “end-to-end” plays in the NHL that you can get away with in juniors. You definitely have to adjust to your surroundings. But if I see an opening, I’m going to take it.”
Even though he may have been dreaming of sandy beaches and palm trees on draft day, Jones will be the first to admit that his fall to Nashville may be a blessing in disguise.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Jones when asked about falling to the 4th overall pick in this year’s draft. “I like where I ended up (Nashville), I think it’s a great organization.”
Given the environment that Jones has landed in, it’s easy to understand why the young defenseman has little to complain about. In joining the Predators, Jones is now a part of a defensive unit that has finished in the top 10 of the NHL in goals allowed per game in two of the past three seasons. While playing on Nashville’s blue line, Jones will be under the tutelage of perennial Norris Trophy threat and Predators’ Captain, Shea Weber. A potential future linemate of Jones, the veteran Weber has already reached out to the young rookie heading into the upcoming season.
“Shea (Weber) texted me a couple of times,” Jones said when asked what current Predators have reached out to him thus far. “I think I will be moving in with him during main camp, but I won’t live with him during the season.”
With his focus firmly pointed toward the upcoming season and surrounded by talented defenseman like Shea Weber and Roman Josi, there is no telling just how great a complete player like Jones may end up being when it’s all said and done. While some critics have sighted that Jones needs to get a bit meaner in order to give himself a fully rounded game, Jones doesn’t quite see it that way.
“I don’t think Lidstrom had a nasty streak and he did just fine.” Jones said with a laugh.
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