After finally getting to see Seth Jones in competitive action last night, anticipation is building ever higher among Nashville Predators fans for what he might contribute to the team this season. While talents like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Roman Josi were brought along slowly through the developmental system, Jones is poised to make the jump directly from junior hockey to the NHL. Toss in the buzz surrounding his potential to break new ground as an African American hockey star, and Nashville finds itself at the center of one of the biggest stories to follow during the upcoming NHL season.
The question is, how large of a role can we reasonably expect a teenager (who turns 19 on Opening Night), even one so highly regarded as Jones, to play on the Nashville blueline right away? Considering that this is the Predators, an organization which is famously patient with its prospects, we're in uncharted waters here. If we look around the entire league, however, we can perhaps find some guidance on how these kinds of players fare.
Since the dawn of the "New NHL" in the 2005-6 season, there have been 18 teenaged defensemen who stuck around for more than 10 games as an NHL rookie. The following list was sourced from the invaluable Hockey-Reference.com along with Relative Corsi values from Behind the Net:
|Michael Del Zotto||2009-10||19||NYR||80||9||28||37||-20||32||81||11.1||18:58||+3.9|
What we find here is a wide-ranging assortment of young defensemen, some who have made an immediate impact (Tyler Myers) down to those who simply worked their way through a season-long education (Nick Leddy, Luca Sbisa). By this time next year, where will Seth Jones fit on this list?
If I had to take a guess (and by this point in this article I probably should), I'd wager that he'll place somewhere in the Doughty/Karlsson/Vlasic range, balancing his outstanding skill set and physical abilities against the fact that he won't have to pull down 22-23 minutes a night, and that the Predators aren't likely to be a high-scoring outfit. Ideally, he should at least start the season manning the 3rd pair at even strength, and get some secondary work on both sides of special teams.
Put me down for something like 5 goals and 20 assists, to go with puck possession stats that don't drag the team down too much (say, anything above a -8 Corsi Rel). I'd take that in a heartbeat and call it a very promising rookie season for a guy who could just be the next great Nashville Predators defenseman.
Let's just give him some time, though, before we actually hang that label on him, OK?
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