The New York Rangers announced earlier today the team and their 2019 third-round draft pick, Zac Jones, agreed to an entry-level contract. The 20-year-old left-handed defenseman signed the three-year deal with a cap hit of $832,500.
Jones, who just won the NCAA Championship with his college, University of Massachusetts (UMass), on Saturday night, had a recent change of heart when it came to continuing his college hockey career. Instead, he opted to begin his professional career in New York and forego his previous plans of playing in college.
A sophomore at UMass, Jones proved this season his stellar freshman year was not a fluke. In 29 games this season, he collected 24 points – which outperformed his freshman pace. The blueliner was a clear driving force in UMass’s success and journey to the Frozen Four Final this season.
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His numbers slotted him second among all defensemen in the NCAA for goals (nine). He came in third for overall points, tied for third in shots on goal (84), and ranked eighth in assists (15). Prior to college, he was a member of the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL), where he registered an eye-opening 52 points in 56 games.
The Virginia-native also joined team USA in the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. A tournament in which he recorded one goal and one assist in five games. These impressive numbers indicate his success at every level as he continues to develop.
Jones’s Rapid Addition to the Rangers
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported Jones joined the team this morning and skated with his teammates ahead of tonight’s matchup against the New Jersey Devils on the road. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported yesterday he is expected to be in the lineup after quarantine, which Brooks confirms today there is no quarantine requirement. The signing burns the first year of his contract.
Though Jones is not by any means a big-bodied defender, what he lacks in size he makes up for in skill and speed. His addition to the Rangers is certainly a welcomed one, as he joins the young defensive core that preexists. Though the Blueshirts have a healthy pipeline of young talent, his name always seemed to be one of the more excitable names within the system.
Immediate Impressions from Jones in Frozen Four Final
I had the opportunity to see Jones skate in the National Championship game hosted in Pittsburgh, PA this past Saturday. His speed and puck control capabilities stand out the most, which is humorous to say since many aspects of his game stand out. His talent is obvious and he sure is a fun player to watch.
The 5-0 victory for UMass over St. Cloud State was an exhibit of young and fast talent for both teams. Though UMass possessed a stacked blue line, Jones’ puck-moving and offensive skills allow him to stand out. Jones was always praised this way through his hockey career, and his performance proves he embraces improvement at each level.
The 5-foot-10 blueliner showed no hesitation going to bump offenders off the puck, while his defensive upside is getting there, he shows he is not a laid-back defender already. Greg Carvel, Jones’s coach at UMass regarded him already as an NHL player.
Jones stepped in when defensive phenom Cale Makar left the UMass team for the NHL. It should be no surprise that Jones’ ability to make a similar impact to that of Makar’s was a reassuring sign. Furthermore, you can’t help but be reminded of Adam Fox when you watch Jones. With Jones a couple of years younger than Fox, this comparison could not be any sweeter for Rangers’ fans. Though Jones’s exact debut remains a mystery, his first game will be highly anticipated.
Rachel is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh earning a degree in Communications and English. After moving to Pittsburgh for school, she fell in love with the vibrant hockey community but that only strengthened her love for the team she grew up rooting for — the New York Rangers. Rachel covers the Rangers at thehockeywriters.com and she can be followed on Twitter @RachelNHL.