When talking about draft eligible prospects on the London Knights, Matthew Tkachuk and Olli Juolevi are the ones that instantly come to mind. It’s not without merit, as the two of them were great on the big stage of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship earlier this month. Just this week, Tkachuk was ranked as the top North American skater by Central Scouting and Juolevi is being championed by some as the best defensive prospect in the draft.
While the hype around these two is warranted, there is another player in London fans should get to know.
Max Jones was the first round pick by the Knights in the 2014 OHL Priority Draft. The son of a Wolverine, many believe that Max would follow his father’s path to the University of Michigan. However, this past summer Jones was convinced that the OHL was the best route for his development.
After an uncharacteristically down year in London, Jones was a part of an influx of American talent (Jones and Tkachuk were joined by JJ Piccinich and Kole Sherwood) that the Knights expected to bring them back to contention.
Jones definitely didn’t start his major junior career the way he would have liked. With no goals and only one assist through his first six games, the transition wasn’t going smoothly and he was buried on the third line of an incredibly strong Knights team. No one can fault a 17-year-old for an uncomfortable introduction to a new circumstance, but as with most prospects that possess the skill level he does, Jones’ talent began to take over.
He recorded two hat tricks in the final week of October and turned into a key part of the top-6 in London.
Not invited to try out for the American World Junior team, Jones took the opportunity to step out of the shadows of his superstar teammates. The absence of Tkachuk, along with Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner (who were tied for the OHL scoring lead) would leave a void in London’s offence that Jones was able to fill. Playing an expanded role, Jones recorded 15 points through ten games in December that included two highlight reel overtime winning goals.
Incredible. Back-to-back breakaway OT winners for #2016NHLDraft prospect Max Jones of the Knights. https://t.co/fDztAwxfpa
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) January 3, 2016
After a slow start, Jones has been great in London and is finally getting noticed by NHL scouts. His draft ranking is one of the most variable of any prospect but he is certainly a first rounder, possibly even a top-10 talent.
Jones is a big-bodied left winger who plays with the speed necessary for the next level. While not as flashy as some of his teammates, Jones has the puck skills to make plays in open ice and create offense for himself and has a pro-level wrist shot to finish. He plays with an aggression and strength to his game that allows his to win battles along the boards and is reliable enough to play in key defensive situation.
For the lack of a better term, Max Jones “plays like a pro”. He has a calmness and poise to his game that compliments his physical tools. His potential ceiling may not be as high as other OHLers in the top-10 like Alexander Nylander or Michael McLeod, but Jones has a talent floor that makes him a less risky pick than others. He may never turn into a all-star talent, but he will have a long and productive NHL career, something in the vein of Andrew Ladd.
In a draft filled with some tremendous offensive talent from the OHL, Max Jones may not be getting as much hype among the general public as others. His name doesn’t generally come to mind when fans talk about who they want their team to draft for the re-build but there is going to be a general manager that walks off the draft stage with a huge smile on their face after just announcing Jones’ name and rightfully so.
Max Jones is relentless on the puck. Nice spin move in effort to lose Chychrun, muscles his way to the net #Knights https://t.co/zhnjHk38Ks
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) January 2, 2016