Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Flyers on July 23, 2003, Randy Jones has gone on to establish himself as one of the top young defensemen in the organization.
The 22-year-old Quispamsis, New Brunswick native began the season with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League. After a slow start, he became a fixture on the team’s defensive unit and began to thrive in all game situations.
Jones made his NHL debut with the Flyers at Washington on March 6, after a rash of injuries left the team short of defensive players. He was returned to the Phantoms after the game, but was recalled again roughly two weeks later when Vladimir Malakhov went down with a broken jaw.
To this point, the 6’2”, 195 lb. rearguard has appeared in five games with the big club. He has played well in a somewhat limited role, playing mostly alongside veteran Mattias Timander on the Flyers’ blue line.
Hockey’s Future met up with Jones following a recent Flyers game at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
HF: How would you describe your experience with the Flyers thus far?
RJ: So far, I think it’s been great. I’m playing on a good team right here, a contender for first spot, a team that’ll make a good run in the playoffs. There’s a lot of great players I’m playing with out there. I’m just trying to find my groove a little bit, keep my focus and keep this game simple and not try to make it too difficult or anything like that. I’m just looking to gain confidence, game by game.
HF: The organization is showing a great deal of confidence in your abilities by playing you this late in the season. What does that level of trust mean to you?
RJ: Oh, it means quite a bit. This is a great organization, with great players here and with the Phantoms, bringing me in like this and throwing me into the lineup this late in the season. They’ve had a lot of unfortunate injuries on D, but it does show a lot of confidence and trust by them, and I’m ready to accept it and go out and do my best.
HF: You made your NHL debut earlier this month at Washington. Talk about your emotions, both before and during the game.
RJ: Before, I was pretty nervous. But, quite a few of the guys calmed me down and it made me realize that it’s a simple game out there and you have to try not to make things too difficult. I just wanted to go out and play my own game and try not to do difficult things or anything like that. I wanted to keep focus and play simple, and that’s what I did. Throughout the game, I felt like I gained more and more confidence and I just kept going with that.
HF: Shortly after that game, you were sent back to the AHL. What was your mindset at that point?
RJ: Well, you never really know when you’ll be back. The main thing you want to do is, when you go back [to the minors], you want to work just as hard and be the best player out there. So, if the opportunity arises again, you want to be the first guy they go to. Fortunately enough, they brought me back up again and this is where we’re at.
HF: The first game of your second stint with the Flyers was your home debut, against the New York Rangers. How did that experience differ from your first NHL game?
RJ: There was no difference for me, personally. A game’s a game. Though, you love to play in front of your home fans, that’s for sure. To feel 20,000 people out there cheering for you and your team, it feels great. But, it’s a game, whether you’re playing at home or away, you have to make sure you do the same things and keep the same focus. That’s what I tried to do, and it was a good experience.
HF: Since you’ve been back, you’ve been paired mostly with Mattias Timander. What has it been like playing with him?
RJ: I’ve played with him for a few games now and I think we’re working well together. We’re reading off of each other and reacting to plays that we’re doing out there. He’s a great player, been around the league for a while now. He’s shown me a lot of stuff, just like the rest of the d-men here. I’m eager to learn, just competing and getting into the league a little bit. Hopefully, down the road, I’ll be able to [assist in a young defenseman’s development].
HF: At your very best, what do you feel you offer this team down the stretch?
RJ: I just want to play my game and be solid. I’m more of an offensive defenseman, but I still like to look after my own end. Hopefully, I can just go out there and bring that to the table any chance I get. My focus is, first things first, helping the team win.
HF: What are the things you have to do to establish yourself as a full-time NHL player, in both the short and longterm?
RJ: I just have to make sure I go out there and do my job and be really consistent. You can’t do a game-on, game-off type of thing. That just isn’t going to get you anywhere. I have to go out and be focused and bring a lot of confidence in. Like I said, just be consistent and do your best out there. You have to give 110 percent, because you know there are guys who want to jump into your spot.