American defenseman Seth Jones was considered a top candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft several weeks ago. His case was seemingly bolstered when the defense-needy Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery, but Jones slipped to No. 4 and the teams that passed on him will ultimately regret it.
It wasn't a big surprise that the Avalanche selected forward Nathan MacKinnon No. 1 as he had emerged as the favorite, but the fact that the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning passed on Jones for forwards Aleksander Barkov Jr. and Jonathan Drouin respectively was one of the biggest stories of the entire draft.
One person who had to be ecstatic about Jones' early misfortune was Nashville Predators general manager David Poile.
Jones was rated as the best defenseman in the draft by a long shot. He was arguably the best overall player as well, so the Predators had a major steal on their hands when they snagged him with the fourth pick.
With the 4th overall pick @PredsNHL select Seth Jones!— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) June 30, 2013
Perhaps a defenseman isn't as exciting as a forward since they aren't as active on the score sheet, but defense is absolutely necessary when it comes to building a winning atmosphere.
Few teams in the NHL understand that better than the Preds. Nashville has had a great deal of success drafting and developing defensemen, so Jones has fallen into a great situation.
Nashville already has one Norris Trophy-level defenseman in place. Shea Weber is the unquestioned face of the franchise, but the Predators may have added another in the form of Jones.
As CSN Philly's Tim Panaccio put it, the Preds were certainly struck with good fortune on Sunday.
NSH gets Seth Jones ... Jones and Weber on the blue line. talk about a club that good fortune still smiles upon ...— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) June 30, 2013
Who will be the best player to come out of the 2013 NHL draft class?
Drafting Jones couldn't have come at a better time for Nashville as defenseman Ryan Suter signed a huge deal with the Minnesota Wild last offseason.
Suter was a great complement to Weber and he is one of the best all-around defenseman in the game today. If Jones develops as expected, he should soon reach that level as well.
This past season was a disappointing one for the Predators, as they regressed after having reached the Western Conference semifinals one year earlier.
Nashville failed to make the playoffs and it simply didn't have the spark that fans had grown accustomed to seeing. Jones should be a breath of fresh air, though, and he could rejuvenate the team's fanbase.
It wouldn't be a stretch to call this one of the biggest draft picks in Predators history.
Nashville has had a fair amount of success over the years, but it needs to do something in order to get over the hump. Perhaps The Hockey News' Ken Campbell is prophetic in his assertion that the selection of Jones could be a huge moment in team history.
Ten years from now, we might all be pointing to this moment in time as a seminal moment in the history of the Nashville Predators.— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) June 30, 2013
There is a lot to like about Jones' game already. He has an NHL body at 6'4" and 205 lbs., so he won't be physically intimidated at the next level.
He uses that size to his advantage in the defensive end, but he is also extremely proficient offensively. Jones put up 56 points in 61 games as a WHL rookie for the Portland Winterhawks this past season and he proved that he has an elite, two-way game.
The one potential knock on Jones is that he hasn't yet become overly physical, but physicality isn't necessarily a prerequisite when it comes to being a great NHL defenseman.
Just ask future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstroem.
Jones is actually quite reminiscent of Lidstroem.
He is fantastic both offensively and defensively, he is a quiet leader and he is a winner.
Jones helped Team USA win a gold medal at the World Junior Championships early this year, which suggests that he has immeasurable intangibles that will help him succeed in the NHL.
In addition to that, Jones will enter the league with a chip on his shoulder.
According to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Jones said in an interview with TSN's James Duthie after draft day that he wants to make the Avalanche, Panthers and Lightning regret not taking him.
It's possible that MacKinnon, Barkov and Drouin will all be excellent NHL players, but it's hard to imagine that all of them will outplay and outlast Jones.
Maybe the struggles of highly-picked defensemen in recent years scared off the top three teams in this year's draft, but the Preds were smart not to fall into that trap.
They found an accomplished and motivated defenseman who finds himself in the ideal situation. Even mediocre defensemen can look great alongside Weber, so it's scary to think how good Jones might become in the long run.
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