The Nashville Predators were fortunate in 2013.
The NHL Draft got underway and Seth Jones was nearly a lock to go No. 1 overall to the Colorado Avalanche, or at worst No. 2 to the Florida Panthers. The American blueliner fell all the way to the fourth spot and right into the Predators’ lap.
There was no way the Predators were going to pass up on a defenseman with elite potential such as Jones. They have always been a team built from the back end and Jones is now a part of the organization’s blueprint.
The Arlington, Texas native made the Predators roster right off of the bat. Jones was impressive at training camp and that ran into the start of the 2013-14 campaign. During his rookie year he saw action on every pairing and played next to the likes of Shea Weber, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Victor Bartley.
Jones Scored six times and assisted on 19 other Nashville goals in his 77 game regular season. Not a bad season for an 18-year-old rookie defenseman.
He had some impressive moments during his rookie season, but none more impressive than what he did in Montreal against the Habs.
Jones improved in his sophomore year, notching eight goals and 27 points. His plus-minus also increased. going from a minus-3 to a plus-23.
Jones’ role in his second year was mainly being an offensive bottom pairing d-man, much like his rookie season. He also saw some time on the second pairing with Ellis going down with injury and was effective in both roles.
His main counterpart throughout 2014-15 was Anton Volchenkov. Jones was the offensive, puck moving piece of the duo as Volchenkov stood as the rock of the pairing.
While Jones fared well, there is a repetitive theme throughout his first two seasons in the league; inconsistency. Not in his level of play, but in who he is playing with.
The blueliner is now entering a contract third year and a new partner looms large yet again.
The Predators signed Barret Jackman this summer, and he is set to slide into the bottom pairing d-man next to Jones. The top pairing is set with Roman Josi and Weber with the second pairing all but set in stone with Ekholm and Ellis, which leaves Jones and the new guy.
Jackman is a step up from an offensive viewpoint over Volchenkov, as Jackman registered 15 points compared to Volchenkov’s goalless seven-point season.
Jackman was also brought into the Preds’ system as a penalty killer, as he averaged 2:16 of short-handed ice time with the St. Louis Blues. He can serve as a nice security blanket next to Jones, who averaged 1:40 of penalty killing time this past season.
While the 34-year-old may be the oldest player Jones has ever skated next to, he could also turn out to be his best partner yet.
Jackman is borderline top-four quality when it comes to GF60+/-, which represents an impact on partners and teammates goals per 60 minutes. It is also worth noting he has played in 79-plus games in the past two regular seasons with the Blues.
In looking at Jones’ Hero Chart, he clearly has a different looking game.
Time on ice can be thrown out of the window as he is a bit buried in the Preds lineup with elite guys such as Josi and Weber atop the defensive core. As far as his CF% and impact on partner’s shot suppression (CA60 +/-) Jones is a top-pairing player despite not seeing any time on the top pair a season ago.
Jones and Jackman could be a very good bottom pairing for Nashville. Jackman has the sneaky side of tallying a point here and there and Jones’ game should take an even stronger leap in the right direction both in his own regard and with Jackman as his consistent partner throughout the year.