2015-16 Team: London Knights (#49)
Date of birth: February 17th, 1998
Place of birth: Rochester, Michigan
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 205 lbs
Position: Left Winger
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2016 1st year eligible
THW The Next Ones Ranking (February): 17
- Craig Button (TSN): 42
As the London Knights’ first round pick in the 2014 OHL Draft and one of the top players on last year’s USNTDP Under-17 team, Max Jones entered the season with huge expectations as a potential top ten selection in this summer’s NHL Draft. Coming off of a disappointing first-round playoff exit last season, the Knights recruited several high-profile additions alongside Jones, including fellow potential first round prospects in Olli Juolevi and Matthew Tkachuk. Jones and his new teammates didn’t disappoint, as he notched 28 goals and 52 points in the regular season for OHL champion London, and piled on four more points in the Memorial Cup to help the Knights capture their first Memorial Cup championship since 2005.
Jones stands out on the ice, both for his high-end skill and his huge frame, standing a pro-ready 6’3″ and weighing in at over 200 pounds. While many other big bodied prospects entering the draft have yet to fully take advantage of their size, Jones isn’t afraid to mix it up and get under the opponents’ skin, evidenced by tallying over 100 penalty minutes in each of his last three seasons. His skating ability is well above average for his size, and he can accelerate to top speed in just a few short strides. His shot is also a weapon for him, as he can get his wrister off in a hurry and it is often hard and accurate. His versatility is also valuable to coach Dale Hunter and the Knights, as he was used on both the power play and penalty killing units, scoring three shorthanded goals this year. He also has impressive hands and puckhandling abilities for his size, as both were on full display in this highlight-reel goal against fellow 2016 top prospect Jakob Chychrun:
Several aspects of Jones’ game have contributed to his slight slip in draft rankings since the beginning of the season, however. While his tenacity and physicality are valuable for a player of his size and skill, his lack of discipline shone through at some points in the year, including eliciting a 12 game suspension during the OHL playoffs for a blindside check to the head on Owen Sound’s Justin Brack. While his physical tools are advanced beyond his years, his lack of elite playmaking talent, which led to just 24 assists this season, has led to other prospects passing him on the draft charts. While his hockey sense is advanced enough for him to crack the NHL in some capacity, it remains to be seen whether he can rise any higher than a bottom six forward as a professional.
Jones definitely has impressive tools, but his lack of polish contributed to some of his preseason excitement fading throughout the year. His shot, skating ability, and strength are all good enough to reach the NHL very soon, possibly as soon as next season, but his ceiling could be difficult to predict. He’s a similar case to Tom Wilson in 2012, when the Washington Capitals took the Plymouth Whalers power forward 16th overall. Wilson’s similar lack of hockey sense has limited him to a bottom six role with the Capitals, but Jones is a raw talent with a potentially higher ceiling. He’s the type of high-floor, high-ceiling prospect that would be an extremely attractive prospect to any team selecting outside of the top 10.
NHL Draft Projection:
Jones’ stock has fallen slightly since his lofty preseason projections, but he’s still a near-lock to be taken in the first round. His rare blend of skill, speed, and size are attractive in the modern NHL, so despite his controversial suspension during the OHL playoffs, don’t expect him to be available any later than the late first round.
Max Jones is a diligent and hard-working power forward capable of being an impact player every shift. He’s strong on the puck and routinely looks to create separation. He knows his game inside out and has a wide array of tools at his disposal. Strength and speed allow him to bull his way to the front of the net where he is relentless and creates havoc. Makes smart decisions with the puck and doesn’t give the opposition time and space. Possesses high-end finishing ability and “wills” the puck to the back of the net. All-in-all, a determined forward who puts tremendous pressure on his opponents when he’s on the ice.
Curtis Joe, Elite Prospects
Jones is a power forward who is an excellent skater and displays separation speed. He is a hard-hitting player who plays the game with an edge. Very good shot with a quick release. Loves to take the puck to the net and has good hands in tight.
Dan Marr, NHL Central Scouting
Jones is a throw-back type of power forward that plays with a nasty edge and surprisingly high skill that should have NHL teams excited. He is a fun player to watch as he is a driver of the play, whether finesse or a power game, and makes a difference. Skates well and processes the game quickly. Loves to lay the body and you can expect one large hit per game but his best asset is his rocket shot that just screams off his blade.
He is quite agile, using solid footwork and a decent first step (for a power forward) to catch defenders flat footed. His anticipation skills are fairly strong, as he knows his long reach allows him to loiter near his own blue line without giving away much in positioning. If he intercepts a cross-ice pass, forget it…it’s off to the races with little to do about it. He can shift gears and change direction, making him difficult to defend in one-on-one or two-on-two situations.
Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
- Forechecking tenacity
- Skating ability
Under Construction (Improvements to Make):
- Playmaking ability
- Hockey sense/IQ
Jones impressed in his first OHL season for the Memorial Cup champion Knights, bringing a heavy dose of physicality, special teams play, and secondary scoring. However, his lack of both discipline and elite hockey sense were apparent throughout the season, which can put a damper on his long-term NHL potential. He is a near-lock to be an effective bottom six player, but it remains to be seen if he can stick on a scoring line in the NHL.
NHL Player(s) Comparison – Chris Kreider, Milan Lucic
Risk = 1.5/5 Reward = 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 8.5/10 Defensive = 7/10
Shots From the Slot (Interesting Notes):
Jones comes from some notable hockey bloodlines, as his father is former University of Michigan star and NHL player Brad Jones and his older brother is former OHL defenseman Mitch Jones.
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11