Being that Seth Jones is 6-4, has great feet and is the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, don’t be surprised if the 18-year-old is the top pick in the upcoming draft.
And although he claims to have a great jump shot, the younger Jones isn’t going to be selected by an NBA team when it holds its draft Thursday.
Instead, the smooth-skating defenseman could be the top pick of the NHL Draft in Newark, N.J., on Sunday afternoon.
Jones, ranked the top prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting, would be the first black player selected first in an NHL Draft if Colorado takes him or trades the pick to a team that will.
“I’m just trying to take this each step of the way,” Jones said last week. “It has been real cool being able to share this experience with my family. It’s going to be a lot of fun.’’
Colorado general manager Joe Sakic — who, unbeknownst to him at the time, played a key role in Jones’ development as a hockey player — told the Denver Post last week the Avs are “leaning” toward picking one of the top-end forwards in this talent-heavy draft.
The Panthers, who are rumored to want center Nathan MacKinnon, are reportedly talking to Colorado about swapping picks and moving up to the top slot.
If the Avs keep the pick and take MacKinnon, then the Panthers are expected to take Jones and bolster their defensive core.
Jones, who got his start playing hockey in the Denver area when he was 5, said he will be happy with whomever selects him.
“I’ve had meetings, but there are no secrets to tell,” Jones said. “Pretty standard stuff. Who knows what teams are thinking right now? A lot could happen.”
Jones, like many his age growing up in the Denver area, got hooked on hockey thanks to the excitement surrounding the success of the Avalanche.
Living in Denver because his dad was playing for the Nuggets, Jones and his neighborhood friends played hockey in the street. When his father took him to a local ice rink for the first time, Seth laced up the skates and was off.
One day at the Pepsi Center — where the Nuggets and Avs play — Popeye Jones ran into Sakic, then a player for the Avs, and started talking to him about how his son loved hockey.
Popeye Jones asked Sakic what his best advice was. Sakic figured Seth was going to grow and grow.
“Make sure he knows how to skate,” Sakic said.
Seth Jones then began his true indoctrination into hockey. He took lessons from a figure skater on “edge work, backward skating, crossovers, those kind of things,” he said. Today, one of Jones’ greatest attributes is his skating ability.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now had I not spent a year doing that,” Jones said. “Skating is a big part of the game nowadays. You have to be a strong skater to succeed.”
Although the Jones family left Denver when Seth was about 12 and moved to Texas, he kept playing hockey for the junior Stars, among others.
Often questioned why he wasn’t playing basketball instead — Popeye Jones played 11 NBA seasons and has been an assistant coach for the Mavericks and Nets — Seth excelled on the ice.
“I’m 6-4 and pretty lanky. I fit the basketball description visually,” the younger Jones said. “And I love the game. I play in the summer with my brothers but never had the drive to play organized basketball. I’m pretty good, believe it or not, but I never had the drive to play.”