Seth Jones has long been considered the top prospect available in the 2013 NHL Draft class.
And that should come as no surprise.
Jones, 18, is one of the best defensive prospects the league has seen in years. He’s Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater and the consensus No. 1 pick in many mock drafts.
“He’s a player that has been out there for a few years, and everyone has watched him progress and mature,” said Tony MacDonald, the head of amateur scouting for the Hurricanes. “Had he been eligible for last year’s draft, he would have probably been a top-10 pick as an underage.”
A 6-foot-4, 205-pound blueliner, Jones is a swift skater with a long reach. He’s got a cannon for a shot, and his ability to read and react to the game gives him a hockey mind advanced well beyond his age.
He is viewed as a complete package with his deft defensive play and his capacity to create offense, as well.
“He’s the prototypical stud defenseman,” MacDonald said. “He’s a big, strong guy who is a great skater for his size. His hockey sense is solid. He’s a good competitor, and he steps up in big games.”
Jones, like previously profiled Aleksander Barkov, has an athletic pedigree. The Texas-born defenseman is the son of former NBA power forward Ronald “Popeye” Jones, who played 11 years with six teams, including the Denver Nuggets. Jones’ hockey roots can be traced back to Denver, where he began skating and fell in love with the sport.
Years later, after spending two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team, Jones made his debut with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League in the 2012-13 season. Jones paced WHL rookie defensemen with 56 points (14g, 42a) and a plus-46 rating in 61 games. He was crowned the WHL rookie of the year and the Canadian Hockey League’s top prospect.
After Portland dominated in the regular season, winning 57 of 72 games, Jones helped lead the Winterhawks to a WHL championship. He ranked third among all WHL defensemen with 15 points (5g, 10a) in 21 playoff contests and led his team with a plus-15 rating. In five Memorial Cup games, Jones added a pair of goals and assists (4 points), as Portland fell to Halifax in the final.
A proven winner on the international stage as well, Jones is a three-time gold medalist with the United States. He was the youngest member – and an alternate captain – of Team USA at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. He recorded a goal and six assists (7 points) en route to a gold medal. In the two years prior, Jones won back-to-back gold medals with Team USA’s under-18 squad, captaining the team in 2012 and ranking second on the team in scoring with 8 points (3g, 5a).
“He’s ready to step in and play,” MacDonald asserted.
Should the Colorado Avalanche – the team Jones grew up watching – select him first overall, he would become the first African-American with that distinction and the first United States-born player taken with the top pick since Chicago selected Patrick Kane in 2007.
But, first reported by the Denver Post’s Adrian Dater, recent rumors out of Colorado suggest the Avalanche might pass on Jones in favor of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin or Barkov, who are widely regarded as the top three forward prospects available. Strategic posturing or not, it’s an interesting and slightly head-scratching twist in what is already an intriguing draft.
“If they decided to go in a different direction, it would be because they wanted a forward or someone else who fit their immediate needs more,” MacDonald mused.
In any case, even if Colorado was to pass on Jones, he’s unlikely to fall much farther. But should he still be available when the Hurricanes approach the podium with the fifth overall selection, there’s no question he would be a slam-dunk pick for a team searching for a top defenseman.
“He is what he is,” MacDonald said. “He is the best defenseman in the draft by quite a margin, and he’s a quality individual and character player.”
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