NHL defensemen don’t grow on trees. Typically, they grow in developmental incubators, over years, in leagues whose acronyms don’t begin with the letter ‘N’.
And those who do get the opportunity to make the leap directly to The Show, still, almost always, have some significant maturation awaiting them. Take Drew Doughty, the focus of the Oct. 14 cover story in The Hockey News magazine. Sure he blew us away at the 2010 Olympics, but there were subsequent bumps and learning curves before he re-emerged as a true on-ice beast.
Ditto for Chris Pronger, the only defenseman not named Bobby Orr to win the Hart Trophy (1999-2000) in the league’s modern era. For those too young to remember (or too old), Pronger had a couple altercations with the law as a fledgling NHLer and was infamously chastised by St. Louis coach Mike Keenan after he finished 44th out of 46 in a team conditioning test. And this after Keenan had traded Brendan Shanahan to Hartford to get Pronger.
So what does it all mean for Seth Jones? Will he be the exception?
Based on a very small sample size of games, and from the reviews we’re hearing from those around him, he has a good a chance as any. The 6-foot-4, 19-year-old super-talent has logged more than 25 minutes of ice time in his past two games and is second in Preds TOI, behind only Shea Weber. He also earned his first NHL point, his first NHL penalty and a ton of praise.
“You can fool a coach. You can fool the fans. You can fool the media. But you can’t fool the locker room,” Predators coach Barry Trotz told the Nashville Tennessean. “The way his teammates react to him tells you all you need to know.”
It’ll be several years until we can truly judge, but there are those already beginning to wonder if the three teams that bypassed him will on draft day (Colorado, Florida and Tampa Bay) will regret the day they let Jones slip through their grasp.