Meet the New Blackhawks: Caleb Jones

We kicked off our Meet the New Blackhawks series with defenseman Seth Jones, and now it’s time to get to know his younger brother Caleb. He was the first to arrive in Chicago as he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on July 12 in the trade that sent Duncan Keith to Alberta. He will use training camp and the preseason to cement himself a spot in the NHL, something he has yet to achieve during his young career.

Caleb Follows in Seth’s Footsteps

Jones was born in Arlington, TX, on June 6, 1997, while his father “Popeye” was a member of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Instead of taking to the hardwood floor like his dad, he took to the ice like his older brother. And just like Seth, he became a defenseman who eventually played for the Portland Winter Hawks in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

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While Seth was drafted fourth overall by the Nashville Predators in 2013, Caleb had to wait until the fourth round (117th overall) before he was taken by the Oilers in 2015. After a successful run with the United States National Team Development Team (USNTDP), Jones headed to the Pacific Northwest to begin his junior career in Portland.

Jones had 10 goals and 55 points in 72 games during his rookie WHL season. After the Winter Hawks ‘ season concluded, he signed his entry-level contract and made his professional debut with three American Hockey League (AHL) games for the Bakersfield Condors. He had another nine goals and 62 points during the 2016-17 WHL season.

He was also part of the United States team that beat Canada for the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. Jones was on a talented team that included fellow future NHLers Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoy, Jordan Greenway, Clayton Keller, and Jack Roslovic. The Canadian team they beat in the final included future stars Carter Hart, Matthew Barzal, Tyson Jost, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and his current teammate with the Blackhawks, Dylan Strome. Both Jones brothers have WJC gold medals after Seth won his in 2013.

Jones Begins his Road to the NHL

Following his second junior season, Jones turned pro in 2017 and suited for his first tour of duty in the AHL. He scored two goals and 17 points to go with a minus-25 rating in 58 games for the Condors. In 2018-19, his numbers improved with five goals, 23 points, and a plus-10 rating in 38 AHL games. He made his NHL debut for the Oilers on Dec. 14, 2018, against the Philadelphia Flyers. Four days later, he got his first NHL point with an assist during a loss to the St. Louis Blues. His first NHL goal came on Dec. 29, 2018, versus the San Jose Sharks. Jones appeared in 17 games with Edmonton, finishing with a goal, six points, a minus-9 rating, and a 47.3 Corsi for percentage (CF%).

The third-year pro spent most of the 2019-20 season up with the big club but still played in 14 AHL games, where he scored three goals and 11 points in 14 games. Jones had four goals and nine points in 43 contests for the Oilers, posting a career-best 49.2 CF% while averaging over 14 minutes of ice time per game. He spent the entire 2020-21 season on the NHL squad, playing in 33 games and picking up four assists.

Blackhawks Present Huge Opportunity for Jones

There is little doubt that the younger Jones will be given every chance to cement himself on the third pairing this season. He has more NHL experience than Nicolas Beaudin, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Ian Mitchell combined. If he can solidify his spot in Chicago, it will give all of those young blueliners time to develop in the AHL, which is a win for everyone in the big picture.

So, what exactly do the Blackhawks have in Caleb Jones? I reached out to our Oilers writer and rumors guy here at The Hockey Writers, Jim Parsons, to get a take from someone who has watched him over his young career.

Caleb Jones Edmonton Oilers
Jones is looking to break out in Chicago. (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“Jones is projected to be a reliable, steady 4/5 defenseman, but he’s not reached anything close to that potential yet,” Parsons told me. “He’s not been a regular in the Oilers lineup since being drafted and had as many good showings as he’s had questionable ones. He’s not been given a prolonged opportunity, and his move to Chicago will hopefully be good for his development.”

Parsons added that Jones is a steady player and his unreached potential is his biggest strength. He says the Oilers could have used more patience as he still may turn into a good player, but the need to acquire Keith outweighed that. Finally, he said that Caleb should get more of a look in Chicago than Edmonton with Seth on the team, which will serve him well.

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Caleb, much like Seth, is an excellent skater, which is crucial for defensemen in today’s NHL.

“My skating’s my strongest asset,” he admitted during a video call shortly after he learned of the trade. “I just need to put a couple of things together in my game to really round it out and become a really good player, and I believe I can do that. Talking to Stan, they have a lot of great resources that you can use to reach your full potential.”

The 2021-22 season is the first time the Jones brothers get to be teammates. While they both played for Portland in the WHL, they were not there at the same time. This will certainly make things easier and more enjoyable for his family as now they only have to cheer for one team. If Jones can take the next step and become a reliable third-pairing defender, then the Blackhawks will be in a very good spot.

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