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Jones making case for Olympic team

Seth Jones had a lot of hype surrounding him heading into this season even though he had never played an NHL game in his life. After 14 games, he’s lived up to that hype and then some.

There was no question that Jones was going to be a very good NHL player one day. However, very few predicted he would be averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game and playing alongside Shea Weber so early into the season. He hasn’t been eased into the fire by any means. Jones has been thrown into the fire, and he has responded very well.

Jones has displayed veteran poise and smarts despite being only 19 years old. He knows exactly what he’s going to do with the puck when he gets it, and maybe more importantly, knows exactly what he’s going to do when he doesn’t have the puck. Jones has also shown an aptitude of knowing exactly when to join the rush or pinch down into the play offensively. There has been no better example of that than his game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens.

“It’s just kind of an in-the-moment thing,” Jones said. “It’s only a split-second most of the time where the play is open so you either go or you don’t, and most of the time you don’t. It depends on the time of the game and the score. It just kind of happens that way. There’s not really a 10-step process to figure it out.”

Nashville Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz wanted Jones to get used to playing on the left side on defense during the off-season. Jones was able to work on that, and has exclusively played the left side while he’s been paired with Weber. That transition has gone very smoothly for him.

“It’s been good so far,” Jones said. “It’s not as hard as people make it out to be, but at the same time it requires a little bit more footwork in certain situations, but I feel very comfortable right now. ”

One of the biggest challenges right-handed defensemen face when playing on the left side is that it requires them to use their backhand much more often than it does when they’re playing on the right side. Jones has had to use his backhand to make passes along the boards and even to receive some passes, which can be very difficult. However, much like everything else so far in his career, he’s been able to brush off those challenges and handle it well.

“At certain times of the game or situations you have to use {your backhand] rather than your forehand, which can be more difficult at times, but I feel pretty good right now with some of the plays I’m making,” Jones said.

Heading into the season, it seemed unlikely that Jones would have a decent shot of making the United States Olympic hockey team for the upcoming Winter Olympics in February. He had been invited to USA Hockey’s Olympic Orientation Camp in the summer, but the United States have so many capable, more experienced defensemen available to them.

However, the quick, successful start to Jones’ career in Nashville has thrown his name right into the middle of the conversation for an Olympic roster spot. After all, Jones is playing top minutes against top competition every night and he’s thriving. His mobility and natural offensive skill-set would seem to be a great match for an Olympic tournament setting played on international ice. Another thing playing in Jones’ favor is the fact that Predators general manager David Poile is also the GM of the U.S. Olympic team.

It’s going to be an interesting storyline to watch if Jones continues to play the way he has to start the season. He has certainly made a case to at least be seriously considered for a spot on the roster for the U.S. team. However, it’s not necessarily something that Jones is worried about at the moment.

“No, not really. Not at all,” Jones said. “I’m focused on playing here right now and when that time comes — I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I’ll say it like that.”

 
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