By: Jonathan Rawson
When it came time for Nashville to make the fourth overall selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, their number one man, Seth Jones was still on the board, and Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile could not have been more elated.
Today, Seth Jones, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team. The contract has a base salary of $925,000 with maximum rookie contract signing bonuses giving him a salary cap number of $3.225 million.
“Seth is a special prospect and we were fortunate to be in position to select him,” Poile said. “As a player, he brings so much to our organization, from size you can’t teach to a skill set that every team hopes to add and a personality and maturity that will allow him to grow and develop with our veteran core and other young players.”
Poile is not alone in his excitement. Jones, still glistening with sweat from the morning development camp skate at the Predators’ practice facility at Centennial Sportsplex, echoed Poile’s enthusiasm.
“This is one of the best days of my life and career, so far,” Jones said. “Hopefully there are a lot of good days to come, but this is surreal still. I am very happy to be here right now.”
Entering the 2013 draft, Jones was ranked the top North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. Jones had a brilliant 2012-13 rookie campaign with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, finishing the regular season with 14 goals and 42 assists, totaling 56 points which was the highest point total amongst WHL rookie blueliners. He added to his already impressive numbers with 15 points (5g-10a) in 21 WHL playoff games as the Winterhawks captured the 2013 WHL Championship. Following the season, Jones was awarded the Jim Piggott Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.
In addition to his spectacular year, Jones was able to play alongside forward Brendan Leipsic. Leipsic, who was drafted by the Predators in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, shared the WHL lead in scoring and signed a three-year entry-level contract with Nashville on May 23, 2013.
Jones has been one of the most widely discussed prospects since he was just 14-years old. After being featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Where Will They Be?” issue in 2009, he has been praised for both his size, skill and, specifically, his prolific skating ability. Jones attended USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he first caught the eye of Nashville Predators Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Kealty.
“We have been watching Seth for a couple of years now,” Kealty said. “When he first came to the U.S. program in Ann Arbor, I can remember the first time seeing him…we saw how big he was and how smooth he was at such a young age. We saw his upside and how good he was going to be. You knew he was going to be a high pick…we know he’s going to be a huge part of our future.”
There to support his son, 11-year NBA veteran Ronald “Popeye” Jones sat smiling ear-to-ear, knowing he had an influential hand in where his son sat today. While playing for the Denver Nuggets in 1999, the elder Jones learned his sons took a keen interest in hockey. In an effort to facilitate the introduction to the ice, he approached long-time Avalanche center Joe Sakic to find out what he should do to help his sons get started. Sakic advised that since the Jones boys were bound to be big men, start them with skating lessons before trying hockey. It was the elder Jones’ inquisition that laid the foundation for his son to become one of the most exciting prospects in recent history. Additionally, Seth Jones joins the Predators with a noted maturity that surpasses his 18 years.
“As I have said to Seth and his dad, very good parenting,” Poile said. “They have done a very good job. Good parenting and good mentors along the way and we’re very proud to have Seth as a player and a person joining our organization.”
As Jones signed his contract with an official Predators pen, smiles abounded from front-office personnel, coaches and media members alike. Having previously addressed the struggles of last season and the frustration of the off-season prior, David Poile cheerfully presented Jones with his home gold jersey.
While standing for photos, Poile said with a smile, “Seth will wear number three for us; hopefully for a long, long time.”
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