Less than a week ago, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said that if Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones was still available when Nashville’s selection (fourth overall) came up at Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft he would take him. He was not bluffing.
After the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning all marched up to the podium and announced names other than Jones’, Poile stayed true to his word and took the player that NHL’s Central Scouting had rated as its top overall North American prospect.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about going to one of those teams,” Jones said about sliding to number four. “At the same time, I am excited to be a Predator. Obviously Shea Weber is there, he is a great player and they have a lot of other great players. I’m happy to be a part of the organization.”
Previously, Poile had said that he and his scouting staff had Jones rated as the best player in the draft, and in an interview with 102.5 The Game following the pick, he reiterated that stance. Many think that Jones is NHL ready, and despite the oft-repeated mantra from 501 Broadway that the road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee.
“We are going to give him every opportunity to do that,” Poile said when asked by hockey operations advisor Brent Peterson if he felt that Jones was ready to play in the NHL in the upcoming season.
Jones is probably already penciled onto the roster for the 2013-14 season as evidenced by a Tweet from Kevin Wilson, Nashville’s manager of hockey communications quoting Nashville head coach Barry Trotz.
“From Trotzy at the table – ‘He is playing with Weber,’” the Tweet said.
No pressure for Jones there.
Jones, who will turn 19 in early October, steps into a strong corps of Nashville defensemen. Weber and Roman Josi made up the team’s top pairing for most of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
After Ryan Suter left for Minnesota via free agency last summer, Poile has said on multiple occasions that the team was able to replace Suter with Josi, but they were not able to replace Josi’s spot on the second pairing.
If Jones is ready and able to jump into a top-four defensive spot for the Predators, it would definitely solidify the top two pairings. Kevin Klein has a firm grasp on the right side of the second pairing.
Just minutes after he was drafted, Jones was saying the right things about knowing that he has a lot of work in front of him if he hopes to be on Nashville’s roster when the team comes out of training camp this fall.
“Nothing’s guaranteed in this line of work,” Jones said. “You got to earn where you play. I am going to go into camp and try to earn a spot.”
Having that kind of an attitude, especially for an 18-year-old, is a great start.
Reporting from Newark, New Jersey, Montreal Canadiens Examiner Heather Engel contributed quotes for this story.