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Prospect Profile: Seth Jones

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Jun 26, 2013

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Ah, here it is. The profile that I so sorely wanted to avoid.

I’ve been outspoken in my opposition to drafting Seth Jones for as long as it was evident that the Predators could be picking in lottery-land. I watched the draft lottery with electricity pulsing through every nerve. There were two possible undesirable outcomes: a team below the Predators winning the lottery and pushing them down to fifth overall–and perhaps even worse, the Predators themselves winning the lottery.

Essentially, Seth Jones was the antithesis to Jonathan Drouin, in my delusional little bubble.

I’m not going to do Seth Jones the dishonor of using this entire profile to discuss my distaste for the idea of the Predators in particular drafting him. I’ll cover that briefly in the usual “Why the Predators should not draft…” section that I give each prospect. However, I should state that I’m not as enamored with Jones as many others are, and the reasons why WILL be a focus.

The Seth Jones Hype Train has been chugging along steadily for about the last two years. On paper, it’s easy to see why. He’s a huge defenseman that is equally adept offensively and defensively, and happens to have an impressive athletic pedigree: he’s the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. The fact that he’s an American didn’t hurt his stock stateside–he’s been USA Hockey’s coverboy at the junior level for nearly 4 years.

Stripping away expectations and hype, there’s a lot to like about Jones’s game. There’s also a bit that I’ve never been impressed by. Whatever team drafts him will hope that his foundational skills can be enhanced and the holes in his game can be improved–rather than his deficiencies overshadowing his potential.

Seth Jones’s number one assets are his skating ability and his passing. Think of another WHL defenseman that went high in the NHL draft– Scott Niedermayer. Now, obviously Niedermayer is likely a hall-of-famer, but there’s a stylistic reference for Jones. He plays a two way game, utilizing that skating and passing and a nice shot, while playing steadily and capably in the defensive zone. His breakout and zone exit should be considered elite.  I think that he could step right in and quarterback an NHL powerplay–although with other areas of his game needing a little bit of polish, I don’t think he would be hurt by another year in junior. At 6’4, he’s also got dominant reach and a long stick.

Now, I’ve painted a pretty gleaming picture of a player that most of you know I don’t love. So what irks me about Seth Jones?

Maybe “irk” is a strong word. I should preface the following by emphasizing that I think Seth Jones is a very good defenseman, and will surely carve out a strong career in the NHL. Now, will that be as a top-pairing, franchise defenseman? I’m not so sure.

I envision Jones as more of a high-end #2–the perfect Robin to a team that already has a Batman.  I think that in a complementary role, Jones can and will thrive. At worst, I think Jones’s downside is a top-tier second pairing defenseman. Essentially, if he doesn’t pan out–he’ll be Erik Johnson.

Ah, Erik Johnson. Allow me to digress for a brief moment…

For those that weren’t following the NHL draft back in 2006, the buzz around Seth Jones paled in comparison to the “next one” anointment of Erik Johnson. Johnson was considered a can’t-miss, near-flawless defensive prospect. Scouts and fans (myself included) were madly in love with him, and as a Predators fan I hated to see the St. Louis Blues get a guy that would surely be a perennial Norris candidate.

As it often does, destiny played itself out and Erik Johnson never even brushed up against that lofty upside. That’s not to say that Johnson didn’t round out into a solid, pretty good defenseman–but the expectations were so high that many consider Johnson a bust, regardless.

Perhaps the scars from that Johnson burn haven’t calloused yet, for me. The parallels between Jones and Johnson are so numerous that I think the lingering Johnson bad taste has colored my predictions for what Jones will be. I’m not saying that it will happen, or even that it’s likely–I just can’t imagine the devastating impact to a team like the Predators if he failed to meet the hype.

In terms of the more tangible traits that I dislike in Jones, it essentially boils down to his lack of a physical game. When you see a defenseman as massive as Seth Jones, you automatically crave a vicious, punishing hitter. However, that’s not his game. I’ve seen other bloggers compare him to Chris Pronger, but he lacks that element of intimidation.  He relies more on positioning and stickwork to make the savvy defensive player–rather than utilizing a big hit to separate his man from the puck.

Now, Jones has the old adage “you can’t teach size” in his corner. There’s certainly hope that he could acquire or otherwise learn to utilize everything in his toolbox. I would just be wary of such a gamble–we already had a hulking defenseman that was frustratingly soft in Cody Franson.


I don’t think drafting Seth Jones is the right move for the Predators.  However, if it happened the positive is you can never have too many good defensemen.

Weber and Josi seem poised to occupy the top pairing for at least the next 7 years.  Klein is signed reasonably for 5 more seasons…but after that, the defensive cupboard is a little shaky.  Jonathan Blum went into a nosedive that he never pulled out of and now appears to be headed for his iceberg out to sea. Ryan Ellis hasn’t developed as expected thus far and looks to be more of a power play specialist than everyday-minutes defenseman.  Mattias Ekholm has potential, but hasn’t shown well in limited viewings at the NHL level.

Everyone else in the system projects to be a bottom pair defenseman, so drafting Jones would theoretically give the Predators the perfect partner for Kevin Klein.


The Predators are in a position that should hopefully be rare for them: drafting in the elite upper echelon at fourth overall.  This is a special and important opportunity for Nashville to address a weakness that has haunted the franchise since its inception: a franchise-level forward.  No matter what happens in the top three, no matter how far Jones falls, the Predators are guaranteed to get an impact forward at 4.  To come away from this draft with a player that, no matter how good he is, would be your number 3 defenseman–would be inexcusable.

An opportunity like this doesn’t come around often–drafting extremely high in an incredible draft.  This is a chance to turn the Predators in the right direction and over a hump they’ve forever struggled to lumber over.  Adding another high-end defenseman is essentially relegating the team to the same identity it’s carried over the last ten seasons.  And the result was never good enough.


Scott Niedermayer, Erik Johnson, Brent Burns