Seth Jones’s story is a fairly well known one among hockey fans: born to former NBAer Popeye Jones, Seth first picked up hockey while living in Denver, and honed his game playing youth hockey in Texas. The NTDPer has already spent two years with the program, and because he missed the NHL draft cutoff by just over a month he will have to spend his draft year somewhere else.
That place, he announced on twitter, is with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. Jones was taken by Everett in the first round of the WHL bantam draft in 2009, but had made it known that had he had the choice between reporting to Everett or playing college hockey, he was going to go to North Dakota. That allowed Everett to trade his rights to Portland, where Jones will spend his draft eligible year.
By all accounts, Jones should do quite well in Portland. He stands about 6’3″ and is a little over 200 pounds with room to get bigger. He skates tremendously well and can play well in his own zone plus has tremendous offensive upside. He’ll battle QMJHL forward Nathan MacKinnon in the race to be the #1 overall pick, and while I’d take MacKinnon because I tend to favor forwards, there’s no doubt that Jones is a potentially elite defenseman, and one of the best American prospects in quite some time.
Though this is a college hockey site, I think he probably made the correct call in choosing Portland. Though he could probably benefit from a college weight program, it probably does him better to go out and dominate young kids in the WHL and play in a ton of games before heading to the NHL than it would for him to struggle with the more physical aspects of college hockey (and I think it’s fair to say that an 18 year old, no matter how talented, would struggle physically playing against men). It’s important to reiterate, though, that Jones would fare well regardless of the path he chose. By all accounts he is as smart and humble and hardworking as he is talented. And his pre-decision actions, personally visiting Everett, Portland and Grand Forks before making his decision, certainly bear that out. This is one of the rare prospects that the college game will be worse off for not getting a chance to experience, but also one of the rare prospects whom you can’t blame for making the decision he did, even as biased as we college fans can be.