All true hockey fans have by now heard of Seth Jones. The young defenseman has rocketed up to the top of every major hockey scouting services’ rankings for the 2013 NHL entry draft. His skating ability and athleticism are positively electric, uncannily belying his tremendous size at 6’4″ 210 (and possibly not done growing). His off-the-charts smarts and hockey IQ make him a stifling presence in the defensive zone and virtually a scoring chance any time he gets the puck in the offensive zone. As former teammate and Winnipeg Jets top prospect Jacob Trouba says, Jones is “a one-man breakout”. Jones’ character and leadership are unquestioned, his talent ceiling so high it is nearly incomprehensible, his athleticism elite in not just the world of hockey, but in all North American sport. Compared most often to future Hall-of-Fame blueliner Chris Pronger, it would be quite a shock were Jones’ name not called first overall at the 2013 draft in New Jersey.
All true sports fans will soon hear of Seth Jones. The son of longtime NBA basketball player Popeye Jones, he seems destined to become just the second ever American-born defenseman to be drafted first overall in the NHL. More historically, he seems destined to become the first ever African-American to be selected first overall in the NHL draft. The significance of this cannot be understated. Though the NHL has had African-American superstars before, from Grant Fuhr to Jerome Iginla, it has yet to have an American-born, African-American superstar with the media hoopla requisite to snatch the sports pages and transcend the stigmas prescribed to the hockey world by some major media outlets, especially ESPN. With all the (well-deserved) recent attention being given to the new Jackie Robinson movie and to the history of integration in North American professional sports, it would be impossible to ignore the relevance of Seth Jones being selected first overall in the NHL draft. Already NHL-ready due to his hockey talents and already media-ready due to his advanced intelligence and maturity, Jones could vault the league into a media spotlight it is often shunned from and single-handedly increase the numbers of youths who decide to try their hand at the sport.
All Colorado Avalanche fans should get ready to have Seth Jones play for their team. Jones began playing hockey as a young child living in Colorado, when his father Popeye was a member of the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets, of course, played in the same building as the Avalanche. In a true and soon-to-be famous story, Popeye struck up a friendship with Avs’ captain Joe Sakic. When his son became interested in playing hockey, Popeye asked Sakic for advice. Sakic eased Popeye’s mind about a sport which was foreign to him, and helped convince Popeye to encourage Seth in his desire to play hockey. The Avalanche became Seth Jones’ favorite team, a team which still employs the now-retired Joe Sakic as executive advisor.
Having not won a playoff series since 2008 and having just stumbled out with the second-worst record in the NHL in 2013, the Avalanche are in the midst of the darkest period in franchise history. Despite a flock of talented young forwards spearheaded by Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly, their defense corps’ poor play has doomed them all season long. The team which once set the NHL record with 487 consecutive home sell-outs from 1995 to 2006 seems to perform with as much mediocrity at the ticket gate as they do on the ice.
One player would immediately help them both on the ice and at the ticket counter, and that player is certainly Seth Jones. From the mid-1990’s through the early 2000’s Colorado was one of the NHL’s marquee franchises. Those glory days were starlit by names like Sakic and Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy, punctuated emphatically by a pair of Stanley Cup championships. Jones certainly would have the potential to lead the Avs to a return to those days of marquee status, to become the face of a young and talented team poised to soon compete for titles again. Certainly, with Jones’ past connections with both the team and Sakic, Jones’ potential future in a Colorado sweater seems absolutely perfect.
Colorado Wins Lottery, Is There Any Doubt Who They’re Drafting?
The 2013 NHL entry draft is widely considered the strongest in terms of talent since 2003. Aside from Jones, there are four other players widely considered by various scouting services to be franchise-caliber players. Halifax center Nathan McKinnon entered the season ranked ahead of Jones, and is considered a bona fide future star, similar in style to Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux and somewhere between them talent-wise. McKinnon’s left wing for the QMJHL’s Mooseheads is left winger Jonathan Drouin, a magician with the puck likened to Chicago’s mega-star Patrick Kane.
Overseas, Russian winger Valeri Nichushkin is a 6’4″ power forward with a stunning skill set, a mix of power and tools equivalent to former Oilers’ first-overall pick Taylor Hall. Finnish center Sasha Barkov is one of the youngest draft-eligible players, but was simply dominant as a two-way force in Finland’s elite league.
All of these forwards would surely be tantalizing to envision scoring copious goals for the Avalanche, but truly there is only one name for Colorado to call in New Jersey when they select first overall in the 2013 NHL entry draft. When the Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery ensuring the first overall selection, it resonated with a sense of destiny. Seth Jones began what is certain to be an outstanding hockey career because of the Colorado Avalanche, so it is only fitting that his NHL career will begin as a member of the Colorado Avalanche.
Writer/lunatic, hockey columnist, mlb.com, aspiring cryptozoologist, estrogen addict, patron saint of vertigo, unintentional ghost hunter. Brooklyn, New York