It’s almost fitting that on a night where former Nashville Predator Ryan Suter visited the Music City for the first time as a division rival, the player many view as his replacement, Seth Jones, stepped into a role alongside Shea Weber. A role that was once filled by Suter.
Jones performed very well for the Predators on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, recording his first NHL point on an assist on Filip Forsberg’s first career NHL goal and leading the Predators in ice time with 25:02. Suter led all players in ice time with 25:57.
Whether it’s fair or not, Jones’ career is always going to be somewhat linked to Suter’s and the history that Suter has in Nashville. It’s reasonable to assume that if Suter had never left Nashville via free agency for Minnesota, Jones would not be in Music City. However, Suter did leave and Jones is in Nashville, and many around the NHL, especially fans in Nashville, have dubbed Jones to be Suter’s replacement.
It’s possible that Suter and Jones will be teammates, albeit temporarily, in the very near future. Both attended USA Hockey’s Olympic Orientation Camp in Arlington this past August and were actually roommates at the camp.
“It was a really good time,” Jones said. “He’s a really good guy off the ice, and I can see why a lot of people liked him. He’s a well-liked guy with a good personality so I enjoyed staying with him.”
Suter was very impressed with Jones’ demeanor after staying with him in August. Jones wasn’t an average 18-year-old then, and it was something that left a mark on Suter.
“He’s a great kid,” Suter said. “Really nice, quiet. You could tell that he’s been around pro sports, pro athletes before. He fit right in. Just a good kid.”
It would certainly appear that Jones and Suter rooming together at USA Olympic Orientation Camp was no accident. Predators General Manager David Poile is also the GM of the USA Olympic Hockey team. Suter had spent the majority of his NHL career in Nashville, and Jones was just coming into his first training camp with the Predators. However, the two didn’t talk a whole lot about Nashville when they were rooming together.
“Not really. He did say that the fans were great and the atmosphere of the building was awesome. That was pretty much it. We didn’t really talk about Nashville too much,” Jones said.
Jones has heard the talk about him being Suter’s replacement. After all, he’s a highly-touted American defenseman playing in Nashville just like Suter was during his time in a Predators’ uniform, and it’s likely that he will be Weber’s defense partner for the next decade or so. However, Jones isn’t approaching the situation as if he’s Suter’s replacement, and that’s not how he approached it before Tuesday night’s game against Suter and the Wild.
“That’s not how I’m looking at this. Maybe the fans are, but I’m just looking to win the game and I think that may say itself,” Jones said.
Jones and the Predators did win the game, and both he and Suter played well. However, it’s clear that the No. 4 overall pick from this year’s draft is looking to create his own path in Nashville without being linked to Suter. At only 19 years of age, Jones has stepped into a big NHL role much faster than Suter did, and the sky appears to be the only limit to what Jones can do.