NEWARK, N.J. – Seth Jones won’t be going home to Colorado when his NHL career begins, however he will be heading to his famous father’s home state as a member of the Nashville Predators.
After being rated No. 1 among North American skaters in pre-draft rankings, Jones was bypassed by Colorado, Florida and Tampa Bay before being chosen by the Predators at No. 4.
The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones seemed happy in his bright yellow Nashville jersey, and will be able to learn about playing NHL defence from new teammate Shea Weber.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about going to those teams, but at the same time I’m excited to be a Predator, and obviously Shea Weber is there,” he said Sunday about slipping a few spots. “He’s a great player, and they have a lot of other great players, and I’m happy to be a part of the organization.”
Popeye Jones is friends with one of the Predators scouts, and he said he was told that his son wouldn’t fall past Nashville at No. 4.
“I know he was probably sitting up there thinking, ‘Oh wow’ because somebody said you may go one, you may go two,” he said. “When I got drafted in ’92, I didn’t get to come to the draft. I was just glad to be drafted. I knew how nerve-racking it was watching it at home when I went 41. I am sure it was nerve-racking, but I’m sure he tried to stay calm and cool to see where he was going to go.”
Now Seth Jones has something else to prove, beyond the usual drive draft picks have to show that they belong in the NHL.
“I think professional athletes or athletes in general are always looking for something to motivate them because there is always going to be dog days where you may not want to lift or do extra crunches,” Popeye Jones said. “But you will look at this and say, ‘I got drafted fourth. Maybe I need to get to the weight room again and try to prove guys wrong that I should’ve went first.’
“You are also looking for that extra motivation.”
So now Popeye Jones, drafted by the NBA’s Houston Rockets in 1992 and traded to Dallas, knows what NHL team he will be throwing his support to.
“There is no disappointment in going to Nashville. It is such a great franchise,” he said. “It is my home state. I’ve got to get my Preds hat.”
COVER BOY BRODEUR: At age 41 and after 20 NHL seasons, New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur still has it—on and off the ice.
Brodeur was selected by fans as the EA SPORTS NHL14 cover athlete, beating out Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky—this season’s Vezina Trophy winner. This marks the first time the game featured a goalie since John Vanbiesbrouck was chosen for NHL ’97.
“It’s a great honour. This is a lot different than other things because fans voted,” Brodeur said Sunday before the NHL draft was held at his home rink in New Jersey. “We had over 22 million voters. For me to be able to be on top of all the players that were involved in the campaign, it’s pretty cool.
“It says that I’m still popular a little bit out there even though I’m a little older than most of the guys.”
And Brodeur can still play, too. He is signed through the 2013-14 season and hasn’t said anything about retiring once that deal is done.
He was limited to 29 games in the lockout-shortened season because of a pinched nerve in his neck and back, but still put up good numbers in a 2.22 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Brodeur earned 13 wins but the Devils failed to make the playoffs one season after they reached the Stanley Cup final.
“I am looking forward to playing next season and play well,” Brodeur said. “I had a good season last season, personally. It’s always disappointing when you don’t make the playoffs. Physically, I got injured with a freak thing, but I felt really good and I am excited to get back at it.
“It was a crazy year. We didn’t get a good break with some of the injuries and stuff. I don’t think there is that much to change.”
However, Brodeur’s eventual replacement was likely acquired on Sunday when the Devils traded the No. 9 pick to Vancouver for goalie Cory Schneider.
Schneider might have to fight off a pair of Brodeurs before he gets to be the Devils starting goalie as Martin Brodeur had the honour of announcing New Jersey selecting his son, Anthony, with pick No. 208—four from the end of the draft.
BOOING BETTMAN: Just like his NBA counterpart David Stern last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was booed every time he approached the podium—long before he could even get a word out.
The first round of boos came before the draft even started, when Bettman could only be seen in silhouette as he walked across the darkened stage.
Bettman, no stranger to unfriendly welcomes around the NHL, took it all in stride and announced “this is a home game for me” with the draft being held in New Jersey. The one time he finally heard cheers was when he announced that the host Devils were on the clock for the No. 9 pick.
The cheers got much louder when Bettman announced that a trade had been made.
“I think you are going to want to hear this,” he said, before revealing that the Devils had dealt the pick to Vancouver for goalie Cory Schneider.
SEE YA’ NEXT YEAR: Before finishing half of this year’s draft, the NHL announced that next year’s showcase will take place down the New Jersey Turnpike in Philadelphia.
Unlike Sunday, when all seven rounds were held on one day, the NHL will go back to splitting it up over two days in 2014: June 27-28. The draft will take place at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers—marking the first time Philadelphia will host the festivities.
ICE CHIPS: For the first time since 2006, the NHL held its entire draft on one day. All seven rounds were held on Sunday, beginning with the first pick by Colorado at 3:10 p.m. (Nathan MacKinnon) and concluding with the 211th pick by Chicago (Robin Press) at 10:01 p.m.