NHL clubs covet large mobile blueliners with the requisite skill to move the puck and stimulate offense.
That pretty much describes what top prospect Seth Jones feels is the big strength of his game.
The talented native of Plano, Texas kindly shared his thoughts recently with McKeen’s Randy Gorman.
McKeen’s: Where did you play your minor hockey?
Jones: I grew up in my early years in Colorado, and then moved to Dallas and continued my youth hockey there. More recently, I just finished a stint in Ann Arbor, Michigan with the United States National Team Development Program (NTDP).
McKeen’s: Why did you decide to play major junior hockey over the National program and, ultimately, the NCAA?
Jones: The decision was very hard for me, whether to choose the WHL over the college route and the NCAA. The determining factor that led to my decision to play here in Portland was the 72-game schedule. The demand of the longer schedule on the body, I felt, was a more realistic challenge and would help me get a little more pro ready.
McKeen’s: What adjustments have you had to make at this level as opposed to other previous hockey levels and programs?
Jones: The biggest adjustment for me was that I had to move the puck faster, and make decisions quicker. There is a lot more physical play and physical demands. Every time you have the puck, you can expect to be hit, therefore you have to be able to sustain that.
McKeen’s: You have been around sports all your life, your dad was former NBA basketball player ‘Popeye Jones’. The question is, why did you choose hockey over basketball or football?
Jones: I like the intensity of the game. There is not as many stoppages in the game, except for face-offs and penalties. The big factor is you always have to be thinking and on your toes, so that’s why I chose hockey.
McKeen’s: Did you have any set goals that you wanted to accomplish this season?
Jones: My goals this year are basically to be consistent every game as much as possible, and to continue to grow and develop physically. Obviously, I would like to gain a little weight to add balance to my frame. Also, it would be great to make Team USA’s world junior team for the Tournament in Ufa, Russia this year.
McKeen’s: How much prior international experience have you had as a youth?
Jones: Yes, I have had some international experience, I have played at both the U-17, and U-18’s, where I was part of the last two gold-medal winning under-18 Team USA squads. The experience has helped me develop my game, but the U-20 World Junior team is a whole different level that I would like to experience.
McKeen’s: Does it bother you that you are being watched by quite a few scouts every night, does it throw you off your game, or do you thrive on it?
Jones: I enjoy it, I think it’s awesome that I’m getting the exposure every night, you just have to be consistent and not try to do anything too out of the ordinary that leads to turning the puck over or anything fancy. Just move the puck or carry it, like I will sometimes do with jumping into the play on the rush to create offense.
McKeen’s: What’s it like for you to be considered one of the top prospects for this year’s draft.
Jones: It’s awesome, it’s something you dream of getting into this position after a lot of hard work. I look forward to the draft.
McKeen’s: You may go in top 3, and one of your chief rivals for that number one overall position is your friend Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads. Are you looking forward to playing against him in the future?
Jones: Yes, we met at last year’s draft, and we exchange text from time to time. He is an awesome player and you have to be aware of his presence when he’s out there because he’s crafty and skilled. I can’t wait for the challenge of lining up against him.
McKeen’s: Who has had the greatest impact on your hockey career to date?
Jones: I would say my parents, especially my mom, because my dad was on the road a lot playing professional basketball in the NBA. She was the one who predominately took me to practice and tournaments, so I really appreciate what she has done for me.
McKeen’s: What’s the strongest part of your game, and what are the things you want to work and improve upon this season in the lead up to the draft?
Jones: The best part of my game is my ability to be a strong skater, and to be able to move the puck up the ice and join in the rush offensively. I really want to work on getting my shots on net through traffic with a little higher percentage rate.