BUFFALO – It’s not easy to find true power forwards in the draft. Many have tried and the success of Cam Neely and Milan Lucic has teams salivating at any kid with size, snarl and skill. But getting the right combination of those three is difficult. That’s why Max Jones will be in high demand at the draft this summer.
Jones, a 6-foot-3, 201-pound left winger with the OHL’s London Knights, had interviews scheduled with 27 teams at the NHL’s draft combine in Buffalo this week – so yeah, interest is high. And why wouldn’t it be? As a rookie OHLer, Jones pumped in 28 goals and racked up 106 PIM in 65 games. He walked top-10 defenseman Jakob Chychrun for a nasty goal against Sarnia and he’s an athletic freak.
Sometimes his physicality goes too far and Jones was tagged with a 12-game suspension during the playoffs, but he didn’t sulk.
“It was tough, but I looked at the light at the end of the tunnel,” Jones said. “I believed in every guy on my team to battle back so I could play again. I took notes so I could be of service when I came back. It’s what you do when you’re suspended.”
Jones did indeed have a chance to return and helped London knock off Niagara in the OHL final. Then he and the Knights went undefeated at the Memorial Cup, though they did fall behind late to Rouyn-Noranda in the championship game.
“I guess it was nerve-wracking,” he said. “The first time we played them there was a lot of penalties so we didn’t really get to see them even strength. They were pretty fast and kept us on our heels.”
But thanks to a Christian Dvorak goal assisted by Jones and Aaron Berisha, the Knights made it to overtime, where Matthew Tkachuk notched the winner and his second of the game. Tkachuk is also a top draft prospect this year and in general this will be a very London-centric crop. Jones, Tkachuk, Olli Juolevi, Cliff Pu, Tyler Parsons and Victor Mete are all at the combine and it has Jones thinking about the future.
“We just won a Memorial Cup and I think we have the opportunity to do it again next season,” he said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but we have a good team ready for next year. We have six guys here and that says a lot.”
And just to prove Jones’ skills aren’t limited to the ice, witness the following from London’s Memorial Cup final warm-up:
— 2016 MC Memorial Cup (@MCMemorialCup) May 30, 2016
That’s Jones on the left and Brandon Crawley on the right, having a dance battle. The circle was a season-long tradition for the Knights, with different players taking center stage. You could get the call for your first game back from injury or suspension, or maybe because it was your birthday. Songs and storytelling were also acceptable, but Jones and Crawley were tabbed for the final game because they were the biggest entertainers, and they did not disappoint. So where does Jones get his moves?
“I just feel the rhythm and do what comes naturally,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll see what’s trending.”
When it comes to the NHL, powerful kids who can score are always trending – so watch for Jones in the first half of the draft this summer.