With a hectic summer behind him, Seth Jones can just focus on hockey. No more pre-draft interviews asking who his hockey idol was growing up. No more post-draft interviews asking about his feelings dropping to fourth overall. No more combines, photo shoots or stress over something out of his control. Just hockey.
Despite not missing a beat in development camp or the just-concluded rookie camp, Jones’ first real impression in a Nashville Predators uniform will come this week when training camp kicks off.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since the start of summer,” Jones said with a smile on his face. “It’s finally here.”
Training camp is finally here. It’s been a long summer for the Predators, but one that got a little shorter when they selected Jones, the top player on their draft board.
As Jones gets his first taste of NHL-like competition, all eyes will be on him – from the coaches, to the fans, to maybe even the players. Jones could become just the second Predators draft pick to ever make the roster in his draft year (Scott Hartnell, 2000). With the majority thought being Jones will fit somewhere in the defense’s top four come opening night, the highly-touted prospect isn’t making any assumptions.
“I have to get on the ice and show the coaches that even the rest of the players out there deserve to be on the team and show that I can play at this level,” he said. “At the end of the day I’m not going to be timid out there; I’m not going to do anything overspectacular. I’m just going to go out and play my game.”
To maximize his ice-time potential in his rookie season, Jones may have to do something he isn’t all too familiar with: play on the left side of the blue-line. Predators head coach Barry Trotz told the right-handed Jones to work on it this summer, and Jones played the left side during last weekend’s rookie exhibitions in Florida.
With Shea Weber and Kevin Klein both right-handed defensemen, Jones would have to move to the left side to play in a solid top-four that also includes lefty Roman Josi.
“I’ve played a little bit over the years – not much, though, obviously, since I’m a righty. It’s not too bad,” Jones said. “There are little subtle differences that you have to make here and there. It’s going pretty well.”
Jones will be living with Weber during training camp and preseason. If Jones’ transition to the left side goes smoothly, the roommates could be Nashville’s top defense pairing at some point this season. Trotz said they will probably play together in training camp or preseason. In response to the possibility, Jones said, “I don’t make those decisions. We’ll just have to see.”
All of it will play out over the next few weeks, leading up to the Oct. 3 season opener in St. Louis. After a whirlwind first half of 2013, Jones is just excited for training camp to finally be here.
“Obviously I’ll be playing against grown men and it’s definitely going to be another step up, another level,” Jones said, “but I’m sure I’m ready for it.”