Will Seth Jones Be the Crossover Player the NHL Needs?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2013

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Seth Jones #3 of Team McClanahan skates against Team Housley at the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the First Niagara Center on September 29, 2012 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Seth Jones is past the curiosity phase.

Well past it.

That he is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones and chose hockey over baseball may be the hook that gets you into the story, but Jones is a lot more than a curiosity and an interesting story.

Jones's father was a journeyman NBA player who played for seven teams over 10 years and averaged 7.0 points per game.

The younger Jones is a star defenseman who has a chance to be one of the top players taken in the draft.

Since the start of the season, Jones and high-scoring Nathan McKinnon have been running neck-and-neck to see who will be the No. 1 pick in the NHL entry draft in June.

That duo has been joined by Canadian forward Jonathan Drouin, who has made a name for himself with an exciting performance at the World Junior Championships in Russia.

However, Jones has been one of Team USA's best performers with a goal and six assists in six tournament games. Team USA will play Sweden for the gold medal.

Jones is a lot more than just another top prospect in the draft. Not only is he an American player who will go at or near the top of the draft, he is an African-American prospect who is sure to attract a lot of attention.

There are still relatively few black players in the NHL, so that attracts attention on its own.

When a player like Jones has a chance to come into the league and become a star, it's a huge story.

Jones, 18, is a 6'4", 205-pound right-handed shot who uses his size well to keep players from attacking the net.

Jones has an exceptional reach that allows him to poke-check the puck away from forwards who attempt to make a series of moves to get past him.

He will also use his size and strength to punish forwards.

Offensively, he has the kind of quickness that is rarely seen on the blue line. He can make a series of moves that can allow him to attack the net himself or get away his big shot.

Jones is playing with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

Prior to taking a break so he could play with Team USA in the World Juniors, Jones had scored eight goals and 20 assists in 31 games.

Those are solid numbers. However, his plus-27 rating tells scouts how dominant he is and serves notice about how strong a player he can develop into once he gets to the NHL.

Right now, Jones is a top prospect who attracts a lot of attention because his father was an NBA player and he's African-American.

However, once scouts get past the novelty factor, it's clear that Jones has a chance to be a true star who can draw plenty of interest from a community that has largely ignored—and been ignored—by the sport.