|5-5 Pts/60||CF%||CF% rel||Sh%||Sv%||PDO||Pen +/- per 60|
This time last year, the Predators fan base was abuzz about which talented forward the team would get with the 4th overall pick: Jonathan Drouin or Alexsander Barkov. We all know what happened: Colorado, Florida and Tampa Bay all drafted the forwards we wanted. That left projected first overall pick and defenseman, Seth Jones, available. David Poile practically ran across the tables to get to the podium to snatch him up.
Jones' talent wasn't in question, but the team had a high draft pick and was finally going to draft the star forward it had always lacked. For an offensively challenged, defense first team to draft another defenseman, it was like dreaming of a Clefairy only to come across another freaking Zubat.
It didn't really seem to click what the Predators had until the season started. Jones was immediately thrust onto the top pairing when Roman Josi lost time due to a concussion. In the early going, the 19-year-old was playing over 25 minutes a night with Shea Weber, sometimes even eclipsing the captain in ice time. It only took him three games to get his first point and five to get his first goal. His rookie campaign got off to an incredible pace.
All those minutes seemed to take a toll, though, as fatigue seemed evident later on. It was only his first pro season after all. His time was dialed back, and Jones slotted firmly onto the second pairing. He finished seventh among rookie defensemen with 25 points, and drove possession for most of his teammates. Jones became an integral part of the team and saw ample time on the second unit of the power play, even picking up nine points in that regard. And remember, he hasn't even turned 20 yet.
Oh yeah, and there was also his performance that just finished at the World Championship. Plenty of Nashville players had a great tournament, but Jones managed to put up 11 points, tied for fifth among all skaters in the tournament.
Don't get hung up on the -23, for more than just the obvious reasons. Jones had the worst PDO (Sh% + Sv%) on the team among regular players, meaning pucks just weren't bouncing his way. Nashville's 5v5 save percentage throughout the season was second worst in the league, and not much better overall. Jones saw even worse numbers, with the netminders saving only 88.90% of the shots they saw when he was on the ice. When his PDO regresses to the 100 mark, and the goaltenders produce average numbers, the amount of goals he's on the ice for will decrease dramatically.
Jones has a touch for the dramatic. Even though it seemed like every one of his six goals played a prominent role in the game it was scored, two goals immediately come to mind. Both are overtime winners and both against Canadian teams.
It was only the second goal of his career, and it quieted the usually uproarious atmosphere at the Belle Centre. Carey Price didn't stand a chance after Jones waltzed through the defensemen to snap the shot away. To pull off a move like that in that type of building while you're still getting used to NHL ice is pretty special.
This might actually be my favorite play of the year. The game itself was infuriating, as Nashville jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to blow it in the third period. Thanks to Colin Wilson outmuscling Chris Phillips, Ryan Ellis could have penned a novel in the time it took to collect the puck and break to the net. Jones wasn't far behind, and when Robin Lehner made the initial stop on Ellis, he was there to pot the rebound for the win. Ah, it feels like freedom in here.
The Road Ahead
Seth Jones is only 19. He'll be 20 by the time next season starts. Despite the dreams and wishes of a scoring forward, the Predators picked up a generational talent in Jones. Sure, he had some hiccups this year and will have some next year. He's still developing, and will continue to do so for a while.
That's great news. He showed this season that he will be relied upon and be an important piece of the puzzle going forward. If he can do that in his rookie year, just think of what he can do when he really hits his prime.
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