On a team of Matthew Tkachuk, Christian Dvorak, Olli Juelovi, and oh yeah- owner of four junior MVP awards in this past season, Mitch Marner, it’s easy to overlook Max Jones.
Jones actually finished sixth on the Knights in scoring, behind the big top line, Leafs prospect JJ Piccinich, and the undrafted Aaron Berisha.
Max Jones was far from a junior, college, or European pro star, like so many of the incoming draft prospects are every year. But on one of the most dominant junior hockey teams in recent memory, Jones was still an offensive force, and by most accounts, slots right in the 15-25 range of the draft. The highest he ranks out of any major publication is 14th overall, on ISS Hockey’s draft rankings.
NHL Central Scouting has him ranked as the 14th ranked North American skater, for what it’s worth.
An American product in his first year in the OHL, Jones doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, but you have to consider the context of the role he was playing in for much of the season. 28 goals for a second (ocassionally third) line player isn’t bad at all in your draft year, which ranked him 7th in the OHL among draft-eligible skaters. He also had the 6th most total shots and the 13th best points per game among OHL draft-eligible players, again despite not being in a top-line role. One has to imagine as a few of Jones’ teammates step into pro roles next season, he’ll increase his point total significantly.
The Eye Test
Max Jones’ draft stock has fallen a bit as of late, but not typically because of his scoring ability. No, it’s due to this hit which earned him a 12-game suspension during the OHL playoffs.
While an ugly hit, not drafting a player due to a single hit seems a little reactionary, if nothing else.
Jones has a physical side, and nearly every report you’ll read will refer to him as a “power forward”.
From independent OHL scout Tom Hunter, over at The Bloggers’ Tribune:
When the team’s top line was away at the World Juniors, Jones’ game took off as he became the go-to offensive threat for the Knights. He has the skating ability and puck skills to be a top-6 forward in the NHL, while playing with an edge to his game that will perfectly compliment a team’s superstars.
Look for his point total to jump significantly next season with the departure of Dvorak and Marner. Something tells me that in a few years Jones will end up being the kind of player that causes people to ask “Why did he drop to the second half of the first?”
By the way, Mr. Hunter isn’t making this up. His numbers from December and early January were his most consistent stretch of the season. Check out his stats from game 21-34, where he picked up points every single game while his friends were away at the World Juniors.
From Curtis Joe, at Elite Prospects:
Max Jones is a diligent and hard-working power forward capable of being an impact player every shift. He’s strong on the puck and routinely looks to create separation. He knows his game inside out and has a wide array of tools at his disposal. Strength and speed allow him to bull his way to the front of the net where he is relentless and creates havoc. Makes smart decisions with the puck and doesn’t give the opposition time and space. Possesses high-end finishing ability and “wills” the puck to the back of the net. All-in-all, a determined forward who puts tremendous pressure on his opponents when he’s on the ice.
From InGoalMag’s Cat Silverman:
Max Jones ensuring those late first-round teams won’t have a chance at snagging him. Kid’s got wheels.
— Catherine Silverman (@CataCarryOn) May 29, 2016
And lastly, his OHL highlights:
Does he fit in with the Red Wings?
Max Jones absolutely fits in to some kind of role with most NHL teams, and by all accounts, should be a fairly strong NHL player. He can slot into a top-six role eventually.
Jones isn’t a can’t-miss prospect, but he could be definitely undervalued due to his lack of time on the top line in London and his suspension. If he’s available at 16 and there’s no surprise players who fall out of the top-ten, he seems like a fairly “safe” pick in that he’s got room to grow and should be physically ready for the NHL level within a few years.
There’s two main questions about Jones I have if you’re the Red Wings:
- Are you content with taking a somewhat big chance that his production can keep up for a full season, as he’s only been a team’s offensive threat for a handful of games?
- Are you okay with going a little against most draft rankings and picking a player when higher ranked players are almost certainly still going to be left over?
If the Wings answer yes to those questions, don’t be surprised to hear his name being called on draft day.
He might not have the highest ceiling of the prospects available at 16th overall, but you won’t find many players in the first round with more room to grow in their draft+1 year.