NEWARK, USA – Seth Jones finally has a team and it’s not the Colorado Avalanche. Coming into the draft Jones was a much-heralded prospect touted as a possible first overall selection. But as the draft commenced he was passed over by the first three teams before being selected fourth overall by the Nashville Predators.
“I was prepared after what the Avalanche said the last couple of days (about taking Nathan MacKinnon),” said Jones when he met the media. “But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was surprised at how things occurred. At the same time I am happy to be a Nashville Predator.”
When the Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery in late April it was expected they would take Jones, who was inspired to play hockey after seeing the Stanley Cup in 2001 while living in Denver.
He began to play after his father, former NBA forward Popeye Jones, inquired about getting Seth involved in the sport after consulting with Joe Sakic, who is now the team’s vice president of hockey operations.
While all the pieces were there for a Rocky Mountain fairytale, alas it was not meant to be.
“The idea of going to Colorado sounded too good to be true and it turned out that way,” Jones said of the decision. “They didn’t choose me and that’s their decision as an organization and you have to respect that.”
The smooth skating Jones goes to perhaps an ideal situation. He is solid defensively and can transition the puck to the forwards quickly and has the ability to create offence. With Shea Webber anchored on defence and the emergence of World Championship MVP Roman Josi, Jones could become another important player on the blueline with an opportunity to fit in right away.
“I think I have the potential to play next year but nothing is guaranteed and you have to earn it,” said Jones of his chances this fall. “I will go to camp and work hard to win a spot in training camp. That’s my goal.”
Proud papa Popeye Jones believes his son is better prepared than most for what lies ahead.
“What he’s seen from behind the scenes is the work that you have to put in every day to be competitive and the responsibility that comes with it. You have to come to work. He’s seen guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd and how hard they’ve worked at their craft. He’s already done that and is going to take it to another level in his NHL career.
Nashville had its eye on Jones, monitoring how things were unfolding prior to the draft. Predators scout Ryan Rezmierski is also USA Hockey’s NTDP Director of Player Personnel and has known Jones since he was about thirteen.
“I’m good friends with Ryan,” said Popeye Jones. “Last night when I saw him he said ‘you know if he falls to four we’re going to be ecstatic.’ So when Nashville was up I knew they’d take him.”
General Manager David Poile could barely contain his enthusiasm.
“This feels real good,” he said. “We were looking for size, we were looking for talent. I mean, we have Shea Weber, we have Roman Josi, and we lost Ryan Suter a year ago and replaced him with Seth Jones. That’s real good.”
With his selection in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, Jones became the highest-ever selected black player in the National Hockey League entry draft.
The impact of this is important for American hockey as well as helping to entice a new generation of children to play hockey. By succeeding on ice, Jones will impact nontraditional hockey communities everywhere and establish himself as a generational player in the coming years.
As the number of minorities interested in the sport increases and they gain access to hockey, Jones stands as a role model to a new generation of potential hockey players.
Without taking a shift, Jones was named the 39th most marketable player in 2013 by SportsPro magazine. He was only one of two hockey players in the top 50. The other was Alexander Ovechkin.
From a personal standpoint, Jones will have plenty of family rooting him on in Music City. Popeye Jones hails from Dresden, Tennessee, some 233 kilometres from Nashville.
The NHL Draft is always an emotional roller coaster for draft eligible players. They’ve trained over their young amateur lives preparing for this moment. Every shift, every game, every statistical and anecdotal measure has been scrutinized by scouts all in anticipation for their name to be called – the higher the better.
“You feel like you didn’t do all that you could do during the season but that’s not the case here, I think,” said Jones. “I thought I had a pretty good season in the WHL but you’ve got to give it to those forwards. They had a great season as well.”
Draft day was the biggest of Seth Jones’ life up so far. There will undoubtedly be many more milestones, beginning with his first professional game. He’s thankful not only for the opportunities to come but for how and who made it possible: His mom, Amy Jones.
“My mother drove me to practices and dropped me off at school as well as my two other brothers who were also starting to play. She had a lot on her plate and still did that for us.”
But now it’s over and the preparation begins towards an NHL career out to prove himself the best player from this draft and being a proud member of the Nashville Predators.
“I’m extremely glad it’s over. It’s been a long time coming.” Said Jones of the road ahead. “I have a competitive nature that I get from my parents. I want to show those teams (drafting ahead of Nashville) that they should have picked me. That is not my only motivation but it is definitely on my list.”