Son of Popeye: Seth Jones is the future of defense for Team USA

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Being the son of a former professional athlete can sometimes lead you to a life in professional athletics yourself. It happened with Wayne Gretzky’s son Trevor who recently signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs that was negotiated by his dad. For Team USA World Junior prospect Seth Jones, he too has a famous athlete dad although not quite on par with “The Great One.”

Jones’ dad is former NBA sixth-man Ronald “Popeye” Jones and while Popeye had a nice NBA career, his son Seth is shaping up to be one of the hottest defensive prospects in the NHL in years. At just 16 years-old, Jones was the youngest player at the World Junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid. The fact that he survived the first round of cuts and saw some prime playing time during the games at the camp speaks volumes to his talent.

Team USA head coach Dean Blais was very complimentary of Jones’ abilities after their 4-1 win over Finland last week, but he knows that a very bright future is ahead for the son of Popeye as he told Adam Kimelman of NHL.com.

“This kid is big and strong and smart way beyond his years,” Blais said. “He’s good down low, he’s strong. He certainly doesn’t play like he’s a ’94 (born).”

Blais said Jones has been so impressive, the coaching staff needs to keep reminding themselves of just how old he is.

“We talked about that today,” he said. “We keep saying, ‘This kid is only 16.'”

The frightening thought here for Jones is that this is the first of what could be many World Junior camps for him. At his age, he’s eligible to play in the World Juniors until he’s 20. It’s unsure yet if he’ll make this year’s team, but he’s shown that teams will be fighting with each other to try and draft him come 2013. Yes, he’s so young that he’s not eligible to be drafted for two more years. With all the attention being paid to him now, the hype surrounding him by the time the draft rolls around in two years could be off the charts for the 6’3″ 195 pound blue liner.

While Jones’ dad had a great NBA career as a sixth man with multiple teams, Seth Jones is shaping up like he could be a top pair blue liner when it’s time for him to arrive in the pros. When you’re getting big compliments all around, like the glowing words here from Chris Peters at the United States of Hockey, the bar is getting set especially high.

Seth Jones – The youngest player in camp might just be one of the best. Jones hasn’t looked out of place for a second. He assisted on Prince’s first goal with a smart shot from the point. Prince did wonderfully with the redirection, but it was Jones who gave him the opportunity. While he needs to build strength, Seth Jones has proven time and time again he is mentally ready for this tournament. The tools are there, but the brains are what separates him from every kid his age. He plays beyond his years.

If he can keep playing like this, he’ll be able to far exceed his dad’s celebrity as a pro athlete… Now to work on a fun nickname for the son of “Popeye.”

PHT Morning Skate: Brodeur’s pranks; Time for Golden Knights to make changes

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Contrary to popular belief, veterans around the NHL aren’t really opposed to the Fortnite video game, but they want to see their young players bond with their teammates on the road. (Washington Post)

Jake McCabe spent some time working for his father’s construction company, and that taught him the value of hard work. (NHLPA)

• Martin Brodeur never shied away from pranking former teammate David Clarkson. (Bergen Record)

• Panthers forward Evgenii Dadonov‘s second tour of duty in the NHL has gone a lot better than his first one. (SI.com)

James van Riemsdyk is close to returning to the Flyers lineup. Whenever he does come back, the Flyers will be better for it. (Philly.com)

• The Dallas Stars have a lot of firepower, but their power play has gone cold over the last little while. (Dallas Morning News)

• After struggling mightily last season, Canucks defender Ben Hutton has been solid for Vancouver in 2018-19. (Canucks Army)

Jeff Skinner has found a way to add some goals to the Sabres lineup. (NHL.com)

• Penguins center Matt Cullen wasn’t happy with the arbitrator’s decision to shorten Tom Wilson‘s suspension. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

• Martin St. Louis wasn’t drafted and he went on waivers, but he managed to carve out a hall-of-fame career. Which current NHLer is the next St. Louis? (The Hockey News)

• Which Colorado Avalanche forwards make the most of their ice time? (Mile High Hockey)

• The Vegas Golden Knights haven’t been able to win as much as they would like, so it’s time for them to make some changes. (SinBin.Vegas)

Austin Watson has missed the start of the season because of a suspension, but he’ll help the Predators on the ice when he comes back. (Predlines)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Taylor Hall does it all for Devils, Maple Leafs rout Kings

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Three Stars

1. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils. The reigning league MVP played like it on Tuesday night as he contributed to all four goals in the Devils’ 4-2 win over the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins. Hall scored the game-winning goal 8:07 into the third period and then put the game away with an empty-net goal later in the period. Along with his two goals he also had the primary assist on the Devils’ first two goals, setting up Travis Zajac and Damon Severson. Hall is now up to 18 points in 16 games this season.

2. Tom Kuhnhackl, New York Islanders. We have to give some attention to Kuhnhackl here because this is the type of game he just does not have. He not only scored one of the weirdest goals of the season (watch it here) when he somehow slipped the puck behind Jakob Markstrom while falling to the ice and looking in the wrong direction, but then he went and added another goal later in the game to help the Islanders pick up a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. With his two goals on Tuesday night he now has three goals on the season in only seven games. Keep in mind he only scored two goals in 69 games a year ago, and only four in 57 games the year before that, and only five in 42 games the year before that.

3. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs. This was not even a contest. The Maple Leafs completely rolled over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday by a 5-1 margin in a game that was not anywhere near as close as the final score. John Tavares was the star of the night for the Maple Leafs with three points and seven total shot attempts (including four on goal). He is now up to 22 points in 18 games this season. The Maple Leafs, even without Auston Matthews and William Nylander, are very good. The Los Angeles Kings are struggling.

Other notable performances from Tuesday night

— Thanks to a three-point night from Mike Green the Detroit Red Wings were 6-1 winners over the Arizona Coyotes and have now won seven of their past eight games. Who saw that happening?

Tom Wilson returned to the lineup sooner than expected and had a crazy night. He scored a goal and got called for a penalty on the same play, got into a fight, and was a plus-two on the night. He was an assist shy of the Gordie Howe hat trick. The Capitals rolled to a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Max Domi‘s 10th goal of the season (more than he scored in each of the past two seasons) was not enough for the Montreal Canadiens as they dropped a 6-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers. The duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl was the difference for the Oilers as they each had three points on the night.

Jeff Skinner has been exactly what the Buffalo Sabres needed. He scored another goal in their big 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Highlights of the Night

Just because it is worth one more look.

Joe Thornton hits the 400-goal mark with the game-winning goal against the Nashville Predators.

Factoids

It was not just a big night for Joe Thornton in San Jose. Erik Karlsson is still searching for his first goal of the season but he did reach a personal milestone of his own on Tuesday night.

The Florida Panthers are on a roll thanks in large part to Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov.

Mathew Barzal is one of the league’s best players and an exceptional playmaker.

 

Scores

New Jersey Devils 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 2

New York Islanders 5, Vancouver Canucks 2

Florida Panthers 2, Philadelphia Flyers 1

Buffalo Sabres 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Detroit Red Wings 6, Arizona Coyotes 1

Washington Capitals 5, Minnesota Wild 2

Edmonton Oilers 6, Montreal Canadiens 2

Toronto Maple Leafs 5, Los Angeles Kings 1

San Jose Sharks 5, Nashville Predators 4

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Thornton’s 400th goal helps Sharks win wild one over Predators

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The game of the night (and maybe the year so far!) was in San Jose on Tuesday where the Sharks were able to come away with a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators.

Along with the win, it was also a huge night for Joe Thornton as he reached a personal milestone by scoring his 400th career goal.

Have a look!

That goal could not have come at a better time as it also happened to be the game-winner and put him in some pretty exclusive company.

By joining the 400-goal club, Thornton becomes just the 11th player in NHL history to score at least 400 goals and 1,000 assists. The other players on that list are Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Ron Francis, Marcel Dionne, Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, and Ray Bourque.

Every player on that list is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, with the lone exception being Jaromir Jagr … only because he was still playing in the league as recently as a year ago and is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. Once he is, he will be a first ballot entry.

Just as Thornton should be.

But let’s get back to the game itself for a second because this one was crazy.

In the first period it looked like the Sharks were going to run the Predators out of the building by scoring three goals in the first 16 minutes to race out to an early three-goal lead. But the Predators were able to respond in the second period with three consecutive goals of their own (including two from Filip Forsberg), and then managed to take the lead early in the third period thanks to a Rocco Grimaldi goal.

Just as the Sharks looked to be on the verge of squandering two points, Joe Pavelski scored his second goal of the game to tie it with just under seven minutes to play in regulation.

It only took 13 seconds for Thornton to follow it up with his winning goal.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones did not have a great game overall, but he did make some huge saves down the stretch after Thornton’s goal to help preserve the win

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Penguins are a mess after another ugly loss to Devils

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The Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be the cure for whatever is ailing the New Jersey Devils these days.

After starting the season with a four-game winning streak, the Devils have won just three of the 12 games that followed while being outscored by 20 goals (52-32). They have been, for lack of a better word, bad.

Unless they happen to be playing the Penguins as two of those three wins have not only come against their divisional rival — including Tuesday’s 4-2 decision in New Jersey — but they have also outscored them by a 9-3 margin.

That is not a good look for the Penguins. Also not a good look for the Penguins: The fact they are now just 1-5-1 in their past seven games and are showing a lot of the same potentially fatal flaws that held them back at times a year ago, specifically when it comes to the abysmal play of their third-and fourth-lines.

Some numbers to ponder: After Tuesday’s game it has now been nine games since the Penguins received an even-strength goal from their third-or fourth-line. Meaning, a line that has not been centered by Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. The last such goal came in a 9-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Oct. 25 when Matt Cullen scored his first, and only, goal of the season.

During the stretch that has followed, the team has scored only 18 total goals, with only 14 of them coming at even-strength. One of Crosby or Malkin has been on the ice for all 14 of those even-strength goals, and at least one of them has contributed (scoring or assisting) to 11 of them.

It is not just the lack of goals, either. Their third-and fourth-lines are getting crushed in every aspect of the game, whether it’s actual goals (outscored 8-0), shot attempts (less than 44 percent) or scoring chances (also less than 44 percent).

On Tuesday, Crosby had a hand in both goals recording the primary assist on both of them, including an incredible cross-ice pass to Phil Kessel on the power play, and a controversial goal that saw Crosby plow through the crease and skate into Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, leaving a rebound right on the doorstep for Jake Guentzel to pounce on.

The Devils challenged the goal for goalie interference but the on-ice call was upheld.

General manager Jim Rutherford addressed the depth issues a week ago when he ripped into his team’s slow start and commented on how they are not getting contributions from their depth players.

[Related: Obviously unhappy GM rips Penguins’ slow start]

For a refresher:

“It’s almost like the guys come to the games and say, ‘Let’s just let the top guys do it.’ Let’s let Sid, Geno, Phil and Letang carry us. We’ll just get through the game and move on to the next game. Forget about the work ethic it takes or forget about the role they play. But when those top players aren’t getting it done, whether they’re shut down or they’re just not having a good game, that’s when we need those other guys to come in and contribute and help win games. We’re not getting it.”

That was probably the most on-point and accurate thing he said.

Over the past couple of weeks coach Mike Sullivan has tried a lot of different things to jumpstart individual players in an effort to get them going.

Bryan Rust, fresh off signing a long-term contract extension over the summer, has been off to a terribly slow start and been bumped up to the top line alongside Crosby and Dominik Simon.

Carl Hagelin, who has just three points in 16 games, has remained in the top-six alongside Malkin despite his lack of offense.

With Rust and Hagelin getting those big-minute roles, it means somebody else gets bumped down the line, and on Tuesday it was Guentzel and Phil Kessel (the two most productive wingers on the team) opening the night on the third line being centered by Riley Sheahan … who has two points in 16 games, none in his past seven, and has not scored a goal since the second game of the season.

None of it has worked.

What the Penguins really need right now is for Derick Brassard to get healthy again, and once he does, they need to stick him on the third-line (which is the role they acquired him for; not to play alongside Crosby on the top line as he had been doing prior to his injury) and hope that he starts to produce as they expected him to.

They also need to hope that somebody out of the Rust, Hagelin, Sheahan trio (which accounts for nearly $10 million in salary cap space) starts to contribute something.

Or, as the GM hinted at, maybe even a trade to bring in somebody that might help add some offense.

Whatever the solution might be, they better find it fast because they are only two points out of the bottom spot in the Eastern Conference.

Yeah, it is early (and yeah, they were in a nearly identical spot at this exact same time a year ago). But it is not so early that there should not be some concern.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.