Oilers Watch: Gritty Ryan Jones worth keeping around

The wins aren’t really coming for the Oilers lately, but that doesn’t mean progress has stalled. This was always going to be a rebuilding season and the goal is development. To that end, Edmonton can take solace in the fact that even some role players are showing off their best attributes lately.

Ryan Jones is an interesting case. The stocky winger was originally drafted out of Jr. B hockey in Ontario by Minnesota, then traded to Nashville once his collegiate career at Miami, Ohio was completed. Jones played parts of two seasons with the Preds where he showed flickers of offensive dynamism, but never sustained the numbers. In a case of fractured luck, he was lucky enough to live with former Oiler Jason Arnott in Nashville, but the house soon caught fire (literally).

A waiver-wire pickup for Edmonton last season, Jones is just now showing what brought him earlier success.

At his best, Jones is a quick, physical forward who can throw a big hit on the forecheck and create some offense. That’s what he has been doing in Edmonton lately with linemates Liam Reddox and Andrew Cogliano and the results are good. The Oilers’ third line can be exciting, with Jones providing the brawn at 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, along with some skill.

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You would think a team such as the Oilers, playing in the rough-and-tumble Northwest Division and with the history of the Battle of Alberta ingrained in their DNA, would have a full complement of players who can crash and bang, but it’s not the case. J-F Jacques certainly has the frame for the role, but he hasn’t lived up to that power forward potential just yet. Dustin Penner, of course, has the size but not the snarl – he’s a points guy. Which means retaining Jones would be a good move for Edmonton’s future.

The winger is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and would likely command a salary just slightly north of $1 million per season. Based on his unique skill set, it’s a small pittance for the Oilers to pay someone who fills a particular, but necessary role.

This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.