If you look at this year’s Dartmouth Big Green, what immediately jumps out is the team’s sheer size. If you look closer, you’ll see a great skating team loaded with talent, particularly on the forward lines.
One player who has emerged as one of the team’s most dominant forces this season is sophomore and Colorado Avalanche prospect David Jones.
With the loss of Lee Stempniak (STL) and Hugh Jessiman (NYR) after last season, there was some concern about who would be able to help fill the void left by the two departed players. Jones answered the call in a big way.
To say that Jones has improved is an understatement. The growth process in which Jones and his game has gone through over the course of this season has been one to marvel at. At 6’1.5/218 lbs. Jones is a player with excellent size and strength. Part of what has been impressive about Jones this season is the efficient ways that he is utilizing his large frame. This has been particularly evident in his play around the net or driving to it. The fact that Jones is an outstanding skater who is blessed with power and speed coupled with his tenacity and fiercely competitive nature simply adds to the difficult task of containing him.
Two aspects about Jones that have significantly added to his success and that of the team this season have been his improved vision and the confidence that he plays with night in and night out.
“He has absolutely come into his own as far as his sense of how he can help our team and the confidence that he has in handling the puck and playing with linemates that he feels good about, regardless of who they are,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet in a recent interview with Hockey’s Future. “David also plays a lot, so he knows that I have confidence in him. He’s a guy that we rely on and has developed into a go-to guy for us as well. I think David’s ability to find his teammates was something that has kind of developed. To be honest with you, I didn’t see that in him that last year.”
Dartmouth has a storied history and tradition. This year, the program celebrated its 100th anniversary and the team capped off the regular season with their first ever ECACHL title, along with three players, including Jones being named to the All-Ivy League First Team. For Jones and his teammates it was more than just winning a league regular season title and individual awards, it was about pride and being a part of history.
“Winning the ECAC championship is probably the ultimate thing that I’m proud of,” said Jones in a recent interview. “Being able to hang up that banner and then come back in 10 or 15 years is just going to be nice to see. The fact that we’ve left some sort of mark at Dartmouth is pretty important to me. Our coach always emphasizes that Dartmouth hockey is so much bigger than the 20-25 guys that are playing this year and we took that to heart.”
Jones saw much of his time this season playing alongside senior Mike Ouellette and junior Tanner Glass (FLA) on Dartmouth’s top line. The trio has made for one of the ECACHL’s toughest and most explosive line combinations this season. Through the end of regular season play, they combined for an astounding 86 points (31 percent of the team’s points). Jones leads the way with 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists). This nearly doubles what he produced all of last season.
While Jones is noted for his offensive prowess this season, what may perhaps be one of his lesser-known attributes this season is his versatility. Jones’ natural position is right wing but he has played at both center and left wing during his time at Dartmouth. Furthermore, he can play in every type of situation, whether it is on specialty teams, attacking the opposition’s net or helping out the defense.
“I’d like to think that I’m well-rounded,” he said. “I’d have to say my touch around the net is probably the thing that most people underestimate about me. I think they underestimate my ability to finish plays. I feel that I’ve shown that this year with 16 goals and it’s something that I’ve worked hard on.”
Skills and talent aside, Jones could best be described as a passionate, consummate team player that values hard work and loyalty. They are characteristics that have gotten him to Dartmouth and have helped him to cope with the rigorous demands of being an Ivy League hockey player.
“He really loves to play,” said Gaudet. “He’s the kind of guy that comes off of the ice with a smile on his face. He loves the game and he works hard at it.”
“I love going to the rink every day,” Jones said. “There were times when I was growing up when I didn’t like going to the rink. My dad has really helped me and pushed me in a good way. Now that I’m here at Dartmouth I appreciate it a lot more. Going to the rink is a way to get away from schoolwork and I just love to be there. When I broke my ankle in my second year in junior a lot of schools kind of lost interest and wanted to wait until the next year. Dartmouth stuck with me. That was really important to me. The fact that they stayed with me and came out to see me [in the BCHL] even when I wasn’t playing was a huge boost.”
Like any other great player, Jones strives to be the best that he can be in all areas of his game. Gaudet feels that adding an extra step to his stride will make him better at pulling away from opposing players.
“I want to keep working on my shot. I think the key at this level as well as the NHL is your shot and being able to get it off quickly, so I’m going to be working on that. I’m going to try and get stronger and just really improve my game in all areas.”
Gaudet has nothing but praise for his blossoming sophomore forward. He describes Jones as a “no maintenance” player who has made great strides to his game this season and could be a future leader for the Big Green.
“It’s great playing for him,” said Jones in returning the praise to his coach. “He’s taught me a lot and has given me guidance. He’s so passionate about coaching, our team and the college that he passes it on to us. The greatest thing I’ve learned from him is the honor of being able to put on the Dartmouth jersey every day.”
Jones cites Calgary Flames winger Jarome Iginla as his favorite NHL player. Both he and Iginla possess similar attributes such as being strong, physical and having the ability to rack up big offensive numbers.
He feels that Cornell’s Lynah Rink is the toughest collegiate road rink to play at because of the boisterous capacity crowd that supports the team. Jones feels that the yelling that the Cornell fans rain upon visiting teams simply adds some incentive to play that much harder. Not necessarily an easy task at one of college hockey’s loudest rinks.
The toughest collegiate player he has played against is former Harvard defenseman and current Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguin Noah Welch (PIT). Jones describes a game last season between Dartmouth and Harvard where he literally felt Welch’s presence.
“We were going full speed at each other around the blue line and we hit each other. Normally when I’m going full speed and I hit someone, they fall down or I get a good hit on them. When I ran into Noah it was like hitting into a brick wall to be honest. He knocked the wind out of me and I had to go off for a couple of shifts. I think he’s a good player and he’s one of the stronger players that I’ve ever run into,” he said.
The Colorado Avalanche selected the North Vancouver native back in 2003 (288th overall, ninth round). His initial reaction was shock followed by sheer joy. The story of when he got the call is actually quite humorous.
“I was at work and my mom called me. She said that some guy called from Colorado and told me that I’d been drafted. She then asked, ‘What does that mean?’ I told her that’s a good thing. So I pretty much went up to my boss and said I think I have to go home now. I can’t work anymore. So I went home and we had a good night. I really appreciate the fact that Colorado chose me. I’m hoping to talk to them a little more. I haven’t been in much contact with them this year. I hope that they’ve been watching me a little more this year.”
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.