The young defenseman put together his best season yet in the NHL last year, forming a dynamic duo with Zach Werenski that led Jones to career highs in goals, points, shots and blocked shots. The fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft has all the tools to be a franchise defenseman, boasting impressive size and length, great puck-handling ability, vision and surprising speed — the additional responsibility he’s been asked to shoulder since coming to Columbus appears to have accelerated his development. Still only 22 years old, Jones figures to be the linchpin of what could end up being the league’s best blue-line corps for many years to come, and while Werenski will be the Blue Jackets’ top scoring option from the back end, Jones may only be scratching the surface of his own upside.
Acquired from the Predators in a blockbuster trade for Ryan Johansen, Jones quickly emerged as the top defenseman in Columbus, seeing almost five more minutes of ice time a night as a Blue Jacket than he did on the crowded Preds blue line, with a commensurate boost in scoring (0.28 points per game in Nashville; 0.49 with Columbus). Still one of the league’s younger players at 21 years old, Jones has the size, skill and mobility to eventually develop into a true No. 1 defenseman and Norris Trophy contender – the sort of player the Jackets have never had in the franchise's entire existence. Coach John Tortorella paired him frequently with fellow youngster Ryan Murray down the stretch, and the two top-five picks (Murray second overall in 2012, Jones fourth overall in 2013) clicked, with Jones' physical presence complementing Murray's slick outlet passes. The duo figures to top the team's depth chart – both at even strength and on the power play – for years to come, but Jones is the one to watch, given his superstar upside. Expect a breakout season that just begins to scratch the surface of his potential.
Jones had a very promising sophomore campaign in Nashville, notching a career-high eight goals and 27 points in 82 games. The 6-foot-4 blueliner struck twice on the power play and fired 123 shots on goal, showing exacty the kind of puck-moving ability that elicited Rob Blake comparisons when he was a junior prospect. Jones, who is still just 21 years old, is a tremendous skater with great vision, and checks all the boxes on the list for a future top-pairing rearguard. However, the Predators are absolutely stacked on the blue line with Shea Weber and Roman Josi quarterbacking the first power-play unit and forming one of the league's great tandems on the top even-strength pair, limiting Jones to a secondary role alongside Ryan Ellis. Though he won't get the minutes that many other defenders drafted near him will receive, Jones might still possess more fantasy upside than any of those players. Look for him to take further strides forward with his offense and flirt with the 30-point mark.
Jones, the Preds’ highly-anticipated first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, began his professional career immediately last season -- to no one’s surprise -- after making the team out of training camp. He proceeded to play in all but five of the Preds’ regular-season games last year, recording 25 points -- decent for a rookie -- but also a plus-minus rating of minus-23, good for second-worst on the team. Overall, Jones was a top-four defenseman for the Preds last season, averaging roughly 19:30 per game, including 1:58 on the power play. Still only 19 years old, Jones will continue his development this season and should benefit from a retooled offense. However, the Preds have said they want him to work on his physical maturity and get stronger on his feet. Jones is a solid offensive blueliner in the making, but don’t expect his point totals to see a big spike just yet.
Jones will most likely start the upcoming season with the Predators after being selected fourth overall in this year's entry draft. Jones was the first defender taken in the draft and at 6-3 and 205, he seems physically prepared to deal with NHL competition, even as a teenager. Soon after landing Jones, the Predators proceeded to waive defender Hal Gill in order to create room for him and it seems Jones should be an immediate contributor for Nashville come October. He will likely start out on the team's third defensive pairing, but he should be an everyday player for the Preds from the get-go, provided he can stay healthy.