Jess Jones Returns to North America for CWHL Draft

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Jess Jones Returns to North America for CWHL Draft
Jones (left) with Belorussian hockey team Pantera Minsk (Image by Thomas Haumer, obtained from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68445110@N08/8188288670/)

After spending one year competing in Europe, Jess Jones is the latest Mercyhurst Lakers star to register for the CWHL draft. In the early history of the CWHL draft, no program has had as great an impact as the Mercyhurst Lakers.

The first overall picks in the 2011 and 2012 CWHL drafts were both from Mercyhurst. Meghan Agosta went first to Montreal in 2011, and the result was a scoring title and a Clarkson Cup. After breaking Jessie Vetter’s NCAA record for career wins, Hillary Pattenden would go first overall to Alberta in 2012 (although she never played for them).

Of note, three of the first five overall picks in 2011 were Mercyhurst players. Jesse Scanzano would go to the Toronto Furies, while Vicki Bendus went to the Brampton Thunder. Bailey Bram was a top-10 pick in 2012 (selected by Brampton), while 2013 Clarkson Cup hero Kelley Steadman was a Boston draft pick in 2012.

With a background in soccer and rugby, the multi-talented Jones has great athletic skill. Prior to joining Mercyhurst, she competed in the inaugural IIHF Women’s World Under-18 Championships. In a silver-medal effort, she logged six points in five matches.

As a freshman at Mercyhurst, her rookie season was a sign of great things to come. She did not miss one regular season or postseason game. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that she scored a goal in her NCAA debut, an October 10, 2008 match against Boston University. Her 16 goals would tie teammate Bailey Bram for the CHA freshman lead. Named to the CHA All-Rookie Team and the CHA All-Tournament team, she would finish her season competing in the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four championship game against Wisconsin.

Having accumulated 154 points in only 138 career games with the Lakers (from 2008 to 2012), Jones is a remarkable scorer who brings a strong presence to the ice. Her final season with the Lakers was her finest. Having accumulated a career-high 48 points along with six power-play goals (tying a career high), she led Mercyhurst to another regular season College Hockey America title.

With Bendus and Bram attending Hockey Canada’s Centralization Camp for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Jones would be a perfect choice for Brampton. The club will sorely miss their scoring contribution, as the two will miss most of the 2013-14 season (due to Sochi).

Jones would complement Laura McIntosh (one of Brampton’s leading scorers in 2012-13), helping to form a top scoring line. Once Bendus and Bram return from Sochi, team harmony will strengthen, as the two both played at Mercyhurst with Jones.

After her senior season at Mercyhurst, the Picton, Ontario native opted to play hockey in Europe. She would join Pantera Minsk, a women’s hockey team from Belarus that competed in the European Women’s Hockey League. As the only Canadian on the squad, she would be joined by two American players, Kelly Seeler and Kathryn Walker.

Jones' presence would pay remarkable dividends for Pantera Minsk. In 19 games with Pantera Minsk, Jones accumulated a remarkable 53 points on the strength of 28 goals and 25 assists to lead her team in scoring. Ranking second behind Jones was Lidia Malyavka, the highest-scoring native Belarusian on the team with 44 points.

In the EWHL Supercup, Jones would log eight points in a championship effort. Contested in Amstetten, Austria, Jones helped Pantera Minsk win their first-ever championship in the Austrian-based cross-border Elite Women’s Hockey League.

Only in its third year of existence, Minsk enjoyed a 6-1 victory against Sabres Vienna, the defending champions. Jones and Ieva Petersone (a member of the Latvian national team) each logged two goals. Along with goaltender Maria Onolbayeva (from Russia), Jones would be named to the Tournament All-Star team.

Having sharpened her skills in the EWHL, the experience only makes Jones better prepared for the level of competition in the CWHL. Whichever franchise selects Jones, they will have a solid forward with an ability to contribute consistently.

As every franchise in the league will lose talent to the American and Canadian centralization camps for Sochi, Jones may prove to be a key asset on any offense. With very little offensive talent available in the draft, Jones may not only be a first round pick, but she is the best bet for a breakout rookie season in the CWHL

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