Amidst the mess that is the NHL lockout, it's hard for a hockey fan to get his fix.
But there are alternatives, including minor-league hockey, the college game, junior hockey as well as the professionals who are playing overseas in elite European leagues.
But while most NHL personnel sit and bide their time while the lockout continues, NHL scouts are still busy. They are keeping their eyes on draft prospects and few players command attention like defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks.
At this point, Jones is in a neck-and-neck race with Nathan McKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads for the No. 1 spot in the 2013 draft (source: TSN.ca).
Jones has all the skills to become a dominant defenseman in the NHL in the near future, but his back story may be even more interesting than his status as a potential draft phenom.
Jones grew up in the Denver area because his father Popeye Jones was an NBA power forward who played with the Denver Nuggets in 1999-2000. When his father took him to the Pepsi Center to see the Colorado Avalanche play a couple of game—the Nuggets and the Avs shared the same building—young Seth was turned on by speed and excitement of hockey.
The instant he saw the game, he wanted to learn to play. The elder Jones went to the best source he could find—superstar Joe Sakic of the Avs—and asked him how he should get his son started. According to the story Jones told the Vancouver Sun, Sakic advised him that he should get his son skating lessons.
That's how it started as Jones took skating lessons at the age of five and started playing hockey a year later. Advance the film about 12 years and Jones is nearing the precipice of elite status in next year's NHL draft.
Jones has size and strength working for him as well as excellent skating ability. He is 6'4" and 206 pounds with a frame to get even bigger. His father is 6'8", 250 pounds.
Jones is a skilled puck mover and has been compared to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers by Portland general manager-head coach Mike Johnston.
Jones may be a bit quicker than Myers when carrying the puck, and he is decisive once he gets the puck out of his defensive zone.
Jones is off to a solid start with the Winterhawks. He has five goals and seven assists and is plus-10 in his first 16 games.
The Winterhawks are off to a dominating 13-3-1-0 start, and they have won nine games in a row. They have outscored their opponents 71-34. Johnston say that Jones's play is one of the primary reasons that the Hawks have played so well.
“I think the key part of what we've done both defensively and offensively is coming from our back end and Seth has been a part of that along with Troy Rutkowski, Derrick Pouliot and Tyler Wotherspoon,” Johnston told the Vancouver Sun. “Seth has a very mature attitude. He's calm and poised in games and doesn't get rattled."
Jones is a big man with solid skating ability and a right-handed shot who has shown defensive skills and offensive talent.
That makes him a rarity and highly desirable for all NHL teams.