Height: 6-2, Weight: 195
Position: Centre/Right Wing
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
There’s an opinion that nothing helps a player’s development quite like winning does and if that’s true, then Blair Jones is well on his way. During the younger years of his minor hockey career in Saskatchewan, Jones was part of four consecutive league championship winning teams including a provincial winner at the Pee Wee level with the Bethune Blackhawks.
In the summer of 2003, two off-seasons after the Red Deer Rebels drafted him, Jones attended the Canadian National U18 evaluation camp.
Now playing in his third year in the WHL, Jones has elevated his conditioning, his work ethic and therefore his overall game. The native of Craik Saskatchewan, a small town lying between Regina and Saskatoon, Jones has taken large steps from last season. Not only has he grown a couple of inches but through hard work he has also beefed up from 170 lbs to just shy of the 200 lb mark. Unlike some players his age who dramatically fill out over a single summer, Jones does not appear to be experiencing much of an adjustment period where he has to get used to his larger frame.
“Over the summer I worked hard at getting bigger and stronger and faster,” he said. “Each year you come back you have more confidence and this year I think I have a lot more than I have had before.”
The Red Deer Rebels drafted Jones (ed. note- he has since been traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors) in the sixth round of the 2001 NHL Draft, two rounds ahead of teammate Jared Walker, who was selected by Chicago at last year’s NHL draft. However, Jones looks to a different centre on the team for his guidance and inspiration. Spending time on a line with Colin Fraser and Roman Wick, Jones follows the lead of the squad’s captain, Fraser.
“Playing with Fraser you see what it takes every night,” said Jones. “He’s a gritty player and he always come to play; guys like that can only help you.”
Jones’ role with the Rebels (and now, Warriors) is obviously to create offensive chances for his side. Playing on the top line has enabled Jones to display his playmaking abilities while his place on the power play affords him the opportunities to unload a very large caliber puck-cannon. While his accuracy from the blueline needs to still improve, there is no denying the velocity or force of a Blair Jones slapshot. Normally Jones is partnered with Dion Phaneuf during man advantages thus giving the Rebels a formidable double-barreled attack from the back end.
Jones finished sixth in team scoring last year, his second with the Rebels, with 31 points and had six playoff points including a game winning goal against Medicine Hat. So far in the 2004-05 campaign Jones has amassed 50 points in 66 games with the vast majority of those numbers being assists.
The Rebels used Jones on both special teams units and, with his deceptively good speed, the 18-year-old forward makes a very well rounded player who is dependable at either end of the rink.
One NHL executive pointed to a concern with Jones as to whether or not he has a second or third gear in terms of his overall skating ability. In a game earlier this year against the Kelowna Rockets, Jones showed the ability to skate past, around or through opposing blueliners but that said, there certainly still is room for more improvement in the top speed department.
Ranked 75th overall by ISS in the November listings, Jones is a player to keep an eye on this winter.