It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The time for 211 dreams to come true. The time for fans to dream of the next wave of talent for their team. The 2013 NHL Entry Draft gets underway at 3 P.M. EST on Sunday, June 30 in Newark, New Jersey. The Tampa Bay Lightning currently hold six selections, including the third overall. In this five part Lightning draft preview, the consensus top three available draft prospects in Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin will be put under the microscope. Also included will be names to watch when the Lightning are on the clock with the 33rd overall selection and possible names to keep in mind for their remaining four selections.
Tampa Bay Lightning 2013 Draft Preview Part One – The Case for Seth Jones
When examining the state of the Tampa Bay system, one thing is clear. The Lightning, though flush with quality, lack an elite skating prospect. This is especially true for defensemen. Radko Gudas, Slater Koekkoek, Mark Barberio and Nikita Nesterov provide quality depth, among others, on the back end, but none are projected to become a top pair defender.
Enter Seth Jones, NHL Central Scouting Service’s top ranked North American skater. Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, has the size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and athleticism highly coveted in blue liners. His size, skating ability and puck skills are reminiscent of former second overall pick Victor Hedman. While big, Jones has yet to assert himself as a dominant physical player, another trait shared with Hedman. That isn’t to say he can’t develop this part to his otherwise dynamic game.
Defensively Jones is a very smart player who displays a great deal of poise in his own zone. Like most young defensemen, he can be beat with wide speed from time to time, but he plays with an active stick and routinely shows solid gap control. Skating is also an important element to his defensive game, as he has the speed to beat forwards back for pucks. When the puck is on his stick, he has shown the ability to skate the puck out of his zone or make crisp outlet passes.
Offensively Jones is a special player on the back end. He has very good hands and can stick handle with ease. He also has a very heavy shot which often ends up on net. He has great instincts that allow him to join the rush when called for, and he makes good decisions with the puck at full speed. Jones has very good awareness and vision as well, and distributes the puck in the offensive zone well. These skills were on display all year with Portland of the WHL and Team USA in the IIHF World Junior Championships. His 56 points in Portland, including 14 goals, led all rookie defensemen and helped earn him WHL Rookie of the Year honors.
“Seth came in and exceeded our expectations right from Day One this season, and we’re thrilled he’s been named WHL Rookie of the Year,” said Winterhawks Acting Head Coach Travis Green. “Seth has been a defensive pillar for us, while also playing a significant role offensively. We’re proud his hard work this season has been recognized with this award.”
Jones was instrumental in a pair of championships this season. His incredible skill helped Portland claim the WHL title. He also was captain of the gold medal winning Team USA in the World Junior Championship. Jones has been a winner wherever he has played, something that is impossible for NHL teams to ignore.
I am a Tampa Bay Lightning correspondent for TheHockeyWriters.com. Hockey and writing have been passions of mine as long as I can remember. I have followed the Lightning from the initial puck drop at Expo Hall in 1992 and plan to keep fans in the loop with all things Lightning hockey.