Position of need is a term thrown around loosely when talking about a professional draft and where a given player might fit. In the Red Wings’ case, they have many. It’s clear the Wings have lacked a top-four defenseman since Lidstrom retired. As badly as Detroit needs a presence on the back end, they’re also in dire need of something else: scoring.
A Quick Review
The Wings offense mustered only 209 goals for in the 2015-16 season; to put things in perspective, the league’s 23rd ranked offense was only surpassed in offensive ineptitude by Arizona, Buffalo, Edmonton, Carolina, Toronto, Vancouver, and New Jersey. The franchise’s worst season in terms of scoring output was 72 goals, way back in 1928-29. The game has changed drastically since the early days of the club, and to only light the lamp 209 times calls for new blood on the forward lines.
The front office doesn’t have to look very far to find him. The left winger hails from Rochester, MI, and is blessed with great hockey sense along with parentage. His father, Brad Jones, played college hockey for the University of Michigan, and logged six seasons in the NHL. The first thing you notice about Max is his monstrous size — he stands 6 foot 3 inches, weighing 201 pounds. He was recently ranked #14 by NHL Central Scouting. 2016 was his best year in major junior, scoring 28 goals and 52 points for the Memorial Cup Champion London Knights. What’s remarkable is how a player with his girth moves. Jones possesses a quick first step, long strides, and skates gracefully for a winger of his stature. Quickness is also an asset-sure, he may not have Larkin’s speed, but he moves very well for a big guy.
There’s been lots of talk about Max Jones and his skating, checking, shot and nastiness…but his hockey IQ is also great. Reads plays well
— Derek Neumeier (@Derek_N_NHL) May 25, 2016
Some players have a knack for finding the puck…or the puck finds them. Jones takes advantage of both. Whether lugging the puck up the ice, going into the corners, or fishing it out in the crease, he has no fear when it comes to going into the dirty areas. He will just as soon turn you inside out as he’ll punish you with a huge hit. Once in the offensive zone, Jones is an unselfish player. (It helped that he played with Mitch Marner, Christian Dvorak, and Matthew Tkachuck, all three of whom eclipsed 100 points.) All that aside, he doesn’t shy away from physical play, will get the puck to an open teammate, or find a cozy area in front of the net to shoot the puck. Put together his size, speed, and shot, and you have an immensely gifted power forward with a unique blend of talents.
Jones has the skills to be a do-everything player in the offensive zone. Skating, passing, shooting, and hitting-he appears to anticipate plays with a fluidity and it’s clear he simply loves to play the game. He likes, some would argue, thrives on contact, gets to the open areas, and is armed with a quick wrister that goaltenders have trouble catching up with. Extremely tough to play against if you’re the other team.
Areas of Improvement
Tempers can flare with him on the ice. His history of aggressive play landed him in hot water in the OHL this past season. Jones was slapped with a 12-game suspension for a vicious hit on Owen Sound’s Justin Brack back in mid-March. If he plays with this type of behavior in the NHL, all his physical gifts, stick reach, and touch around the net will go by the wayside. True to many young players, if he develops more in a two-way fashion, he could become an elite goal scorer in the league. Keeping his emotions in check is critical.
Jones has all of the necessary tools to be great. The fleetness of a Kris Draper. The agitation of Sean Avery. The intelligence and orneriness of a Tomas Holmstrom. And the power of Brett Hull. The Wings have lacked a power forward type who can skate, score, start up the transition game, and use his size since Johan Franzen went on LTIR. Perhaps an unfair comparison, but he reminds me of a young Owen Nolan or a Joe Thornton. The big gamble for the Wings is, of course, if he can put everything together at the NHL level.