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.”