June 29, 2013 in Sports

Seth Jones could be an NHL pioneer

George Richards Miami Herald
Associated Press photo

Seth Jones, center, played last season for the Portland Winterhawks. The team reached the Memorial Cup final, losing to the Halifax Mooseheads.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

MIAMI – 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 NHL draft.

And although he claims to have a great jump shot, the younger Jones wasn’t going to be selected by an NBA team when it held its draft Thursday.

Instead, the smooth-skating defenseman could be the top pick of the 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 told the Denver Post last week the Avalanche 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.”

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.

Jones said he would embrace the challenge of having black hockey players look up to him as a role model.

One player Jones looks up to is Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban – this year’s winner of the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.

“It’s obviously pretty deep to put something like that on one person’s shoulders,” Jones said. “Whatever I can do to help African-Americans take up the game, I’ll do.”

Jones will have a large contingency this weekend at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., a building his father knows well as he was an assistant for the New Jersey Nets when they played there.

Although he would love being the top pick in 2013, Jones said he’s just going to have fun with it. He won’t have to wait long to hear his name called, signaling the official beginning of his new life in the NHL.

“No matter where I go, it’s going to be a memorable day for me and my family,” he said. “It seems very surreal to think I could be playing in an NHL game in a few months. It’s a great feeling. It sends chills throughout my body just thinking of it.”

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