Top American draft prospect Seth Jones (Getty Images)Don't worry, the diehards who passed on Halloween to watch the Portland Winterhawks play on Wednesday still something wicked — Seth Jones showing off hands that should be illegal on a 6-foot-4 defenceman who just turned 18 years old.
Many pundits believe Jones, who is in line become the first son of a former NBA player to make the NHL, has a case to be the No. 1 overall pick in next summer's draft. Against the Everett Silvertips, the big man reaffirmed why Sports Illustrated proclaimed him the next big thing in U.S. hockey back in 2009 when Jones was playing bantam hockey in Dallas. It was only his 13th game with the Winterhawks, but he pulled off a goal that bore the mark of a veteran who has figured out the league.
After the Silvertips — the franchise which originally drafted Jones out of minor hockey — turned the puck over, Jones joined the rush and gathered momentum through the neutral zone. Teammate Adam De Champlain set a pick, so to speak, at the blueline, and then Jones made this hesitation move that froze a 20-year-old defenceman, Landon Oslanski. Then he bested goalie Austin Lotz.
You could attribute those hands to genetics, sure, but remember that Seth's dad, Popeye Jones, wasn't a shooter or scorer during his long NBA career; he was a rebounder and defensive specialist. In hockey, a young defenceman with Seth Jones' size usually gets pigeonholed into a similar version of the role. But he sure has game.
Jones, who's from Plano, Texas, has four goals and 10 points through 13 games in Portland, which is deceptively low. It is normal for a graduate from the prestigious U.S. national team development program, where Jones spent two seasons, to take time to adjust to major junior. The Winterhawks have several elder defencemen, including Pittsburgh Penguins first-round choice Derrick Pouliot, who by dint of experience get to rack up points on the first-unit power play whereas Jones mans the second. But Jones' trickiness certainly was a treat for the 2,204 who turned out in Portland on Halloween night.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.