Sakic was born in Burnaby, BC, with the sole purpose of playing ice hockey. Jones was born in Plano, TX to a former NBA player.
Now an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets, Popeye Jones was a budding professional basketball player in 1993 when his career took him to Dallas. Coincidently, the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas, becoming the Stars that same year. Mike Modano provided scintillating performances for the new hockey fans in Texas, immediately generating a fan following. Among those interested was Popeye Jones, who continued following the game with his sons, Justin, Seth, and Caleb when he was traded Toronto in 1996.
Three years later Jones was traded again, this time to the Denver Nuggets. However, this move may have helped the game of hockey more than basketball. At the time in Colorado Burnaby Joe was smoothing the transition for the former Quebec Nordiques, who were renamed the Colorado Avalanche. Much like Modano’s influence in Dallas, Sakic would cement his legacy in Denver with the Avs. Modano’s Stars may have gotten the senior Jones into ice hockey, but it was Sakic who made the greater impact.
Without any knowledge of ice hockey training, Jones went to the Avalanche captain and asked how to get his sons started in a sport foreign to the 6’8” NBA player. Sakic knew the key to hockey was skating ability, something he mastered at a very young age on the frozen ponds of British Columbia. The Jones’ brothers took skating lessons for a year, which helped build the foundation of Seth’s game. His skating ability and natural athleticism are unique gifts to compliment his 6’4” 205-pound frame.
When the family moved back to Texas, Seth was old enough to play amateur hockey for the Dallas Stars youth program. Jones was growing at a faster rate than his teammates in size and maturity. He was named the captain of the Dallas Stars U-16 team in 2008-09. After one more season with the U-18 team Jones moved to Michigan to play for the United States National Team Development Program.
In his second season with the USNTDP Jones was named the captain of the U-18 team as well as the captain of the WJC U-18 team that won a gold medal.
With eight points in six games Jones was named one of the top three players on the team. This performance set the stage for his WJC U-20 debut in Ufa, Russia.
Prior to his international coming out party, Seth was selected 11th overall in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft by the Everett Silvertips. However, Jones never suited up for the Silvertips. The Portland Winterhawks sent a conditional 2013 WHL Draft pick just for the rights to talk to him. Once they were certain Jones would enjoy playing with the WHL favorites, the Winterhawks packaged Ben Betker and Tyler Sandhu along with the rights to Mitch Skapski and Flyers draft pick Reece Willcox (141st overall ’12) to the Silvertips.
Jones was joining a Winterhawks defensive unit including Derrick Pouliot (PIT 8th overall ’12), Tyler Wotherspoon (CGY 57th overall ’11) and former Colorado Avalanche draft pick, now Ottawa Senator free agent signee Troy Rutkowski. This is quite possibly the deepest defense core in the entire CHL, and Jones has stood out above all else this season. In 61 regular season games he scored 14 goals and recorded 56 points. Jones is a pass-first player with a tremendous hockey IQ. Couple that with soft hands and a dangerous slapshot and Jones is a threat from the blueline.
The Texas-sized defenseman is physical and has an underrated mean streak when he gets fired up. Jones’ mental acuity allows him to play at the brink without going over by understanding how important he is on the ice. With just 33 penalty minutes in the rough and tumble of the WHL, Jones has been on the ice raising his plus/minus to an impressive plus-46. These are exceptionally impressive totals considering he is a rookie in the league. The Winterhawks are currently in the conference semifinals of the WHL playoffs. Jones had five points in a first round victory over the team that drafted him.
Central Scouting’s number one rated prospect would’ve tallied better numbers if he spent the entire season with Portland. But the United States came calling, adding just one draft eligible defenseman. Jones was sensational on the biggest of international stages for players under 20 years old.
His offensive instincts were on display throughout the tournament, buying time and space for teammates before finding them with a hard pass. His agility is genetic and was showcased against the quick Russian squad. In the defensive zone Jones kept a constant active stick taking away the passing lanes and eating much of the additional space on international surfaces. When the Russians were moving in transition Jones was able to regroup defensively, cutting off the speedy forwards’ angles to the net.
The American’s creativity was also exhibited in Ufa. In the offensive zone Jones tried a series of slap-passes and no-look passes, setting up teammates such as J.T. Miller (NYR 15th overall ’11), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL 3rd overall ’12) and defensive partner Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI 78th overall ’12). Although Jones still needs to control the accuracy of the slap-pass and find the wheelhouse more consistently, his confidence in trying to thread the needle is admirable for an 18-year old in the WJC.
Another aspect Jones should manage is his slight overconfidence when breaking out of his own zone. On several occasions in the WJC and with Portland Jones would walk out in his own slot with pressure on. On most occasions the slick defenseman could muscle past the fore-checker, protecting the puck with his superb frame. However, if he tries this in the NHL, someone will pick him and teach the youngster to break out more safely.
Overall, Jones is the best all-around defensive prospect in years. His unique blend of physicality, soft touch, creativity, and mobility makes him the complete package for any team. All 30 NHL teams have been drooling over his potential and current talent level. He is a born-leader with the capability to lock down a team’s blueline for a decade while playing at an All-Star caliber level. Watching him paired with Flyers’ prospect Shayne Gostisbehere was a fun sight as their offensive skill created a line of five scoring threats on the ice at the same time. If the Flyers do not make the playoffs, which seems likely, they will be included in the draft lottery. Although the chances may be slim, the thought of that duo patrolling the back-end for the orange and black would entice any Flyers fan.
Interestingly, the team holding the worst record in the NHL this year is the Colorado Avalanche. If this holds they will have the best odds entering the lottery for Seth Jones’ services. Will fate send Jones to Colorado, where Joe Sakic is a senior adviser? If the hockey gods think Popeye’s meeting with Burnaby Joe back in 1999 is a sign of the future family connections, then the Avalanche may be the team of fortune.
Seth saw the Avs raise the Stanley Cup in 2001, inspiring the young hockey player to chase his dream. Joe Sakic passed the Cup to Ray Bourque that year and if fortune shines down on Jones he too may lift Lord Stanley’s Cup one day.