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Jones: I’ll respect whatever Preds decide, even sending me back to junior

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Many figured Seth Jones’ last game in a WHL Portland jersey was the 2013 Memorial Cup final, when his Winterhawks fell to the eventual champion Halifax Mooseheads.

But on Monday, he left the door open for a possible return.

“It’s up to the [Nashville] coaching staff at the end of the day how much ice time I get and how they want to develop me in the league,” Jones told the Globe and Mail. “I’ll respect the decision that they make, whatever that may be, whether it’s 20 minutes or 12, or maybe even going back to Portland to develop for another year.”

Because Jones is only 18 — he doesn’t turn 19 ’til October — he’s ineligible to play for Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee next season (because of the AHL-CHL agreement).

That means it’s one of two options: Play with the Preds, or head back to junior.

The former is the most likely scenario. At 6-foot-4, 206 pounds, Jones has the size and skating ability to play defense at the NHL level.

That said, playing defense at the NHL level as a teenager is no easy go.

None of the first-round defensemen from 2012 played in the NHL last season. Columbus’ Ryan Murray likely would’ve if not for a shoulder injury, while Minnesota’s Mathew Dumba made the team out of camp, but never saw game action.

Adam Larsson, the first defenseman off the board in 2011, played 65 games as an 18-year-old for the Devils.

Cam Fowler did it in 2010 and Victor Hedman in 2009. In 2008, a trio of 18-year-olds debuted — Drew Doughty (No. 2 overall), Zach Bogosian (No. 3) and Luke Schenn (No. 5).

So, it does happen. Just not all that often.

It’ll be interesting to see now the Jones situation plays out. There’s definitely a spot for him in Nashville — GM David Poile said he expects Jones to start the season in the NHL — and the Preds defense isn’t exactly an impenetrable wall. While the top three of Shea Weber, Kevin Klein and Roman Josi is set, the likes of Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Victory Bartley are hardly proven entities.

As for Jones, he just wants to make the team.

“I’m going to go and do my best to prepare myself physically and mentally for training camp and prove to the (coaching) staff and the organization that I can make the team,” he said. “Hopefully, I can come in and try to make an impact as much as I can.”

Devils send Matteau back to juniors

Stefan Matteau
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New Jersey Devils rookie forward Stefan Matteau will have to finish his season in Quebec.

Mikael Lalancette of TVA Sports in Quebec reports the Devils have sent last year’s first-round pick back to Blainville-Broisbrand after playing 17 games with New Jersey this season. In that time, Matteau scored one goal and had two assists while averaging just over nine minutes of ice time per game. The Quebec league is about to begin their playoffs and it would seem likely he would head to the AHL once his team’s season is over.

Matteau is the second junior player to be sent back to the QMJHL this week. He joins Buffalo’s Mikhail Grigorenko who was sent back to the Quebec Remparts on Friday to make room for Ville Leino.

Sabres send Grigorenko back to junior

Mikhail Grigorenko
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The Buffalo Sabres have sent 18-year-old forward Mikhail Grigorenko back to junior (Quebec, QMJHL), the club announced today.

Grigorenko had one goal and four assists in 22 games with Buffalo. Since he played more than five games in the NHL, the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract will not be delayed. (Or, in more dramatic terms, it will have been “burned.”)

The Sabres had originally intended to keep Grigorenko the entire season, but the pending return of forward Ville Leino (expected to make his season debut tomorrow versus Ottawa) — not to mention the fact Grigorenko played just 4:51 in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers and had been used sparingly under interim head coach Ron Rolston — apparently changed their minds.

The news is at least good for Remparts fans, as playoffs in the Q start soon. Grigorenko had 50 points in 32 games for Quebec during the NHL lockout.

Ducks send Rakell back to junior

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It’s not clear why it took so long, but according to the OC Register, the Anaheim Ducks have finally made a decision on forward Rickard Rakell — he’s headed back to junior (OHL Plymouth).

Rakell appeared in four games for the Ducks (he last played on Jan. 29), registering no points and averaging 8:57 in ice time.

By making the move, Anaheim won’t burn the first year of Rakell’s three-year entry-level contract.

The 19-year-old Swede was selected 30th overall in the 2011 draft.

Jets send ’11 first-rounder Scheifele back to junior

Mark Scheifele
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In surprising news, the Winnipeg Jets have sent Mark Scheifele — their first-round pick, 7th overall at the 2011 Draft — back to his junior club in OHL Barrie.

It’s a newsworthy development on a number of fronts.

One, Scheifele made the Jets out of training camp and has been with the club for three weeks. While he’s only played in four games this year and therefore still eligible to be returned to junior, most NHL clubs made the decision to reassign their prospects a while ago (see here and here and here).

Two, it makes you wonder what Winnipeg was waiting for.

Scheifele had been a healthy scratch on a number of occasions and wasn’t a major factor in the games he did play in, going scoreless in four contests while averaging just over 11 minutes a night.

But in his last game — Friday’s 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay — Scheifele played a career-high 16:47 and managed to finish with an even rating despite the fact Winnipeg allowed five even-strength goals (Blake Wheeler finished minus-3 and played less than Scheifele.)

This marks the second time in as many seasons that the Jets have re-assigned Scheifele to junior.

In 2011-12, he appeared in seven games with the club before being sent back to Barrie, but was later called up to the AHL playoffs with the St. John’s IceCaps, playing in 10 games while notching one assist.