Nicholas Jones was one of the first recruits to get behind new coach Steve Rohlik after he took over last year, committing to the Ohio State hockey program in October, 2013. The forward would sign his letter of intent just over a month later, with Rohlik intending to bring Jones in for the 2014-15 season at the young-for-college-hockey age of 18. However, despite the faith Rohlik's putting in Jones, you should not be expecting the next Ryan Kesler or R.J. Umberger. He's not going to be a first round pick and probably won't be an NHL star, but he should be drafted and can definitely help a team out in the future.
Playing Style: Rohlik's faith in bringing Jones on when he only turned 18 in May speaks volumes about what Jones can do right now. He's a two-way forward with some skill and some snarl, as he led the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 72 points while racking up 88 penalty minutes in 52 games in 2013-14. He's not a huge forward, standing at only 5'11 but he is up to 180 lbs. and according to EliteProspects, will "go into the gritty areas to make plays." If he's already excelling at the defensive side of hockey and going into the dirty areas to get his points before bulking up, that speaks of a physically mature player ready to play with larger and more developed overagers at the college level.
Jones' long term development may be a concern though. While he did score 41 goals for Sherwood Park (only two other players had more than 20), his projected draft position shows that NHL teams do not see a huge offensive upside at the next level. If he was smaller by an inch or two or 20 lbs. lighter, that position could easily be explained away as the NHL looking down on smaller forwards and following the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins models in drafting for size. But he's 5'11 180. That's fairly average for an NHL winger. Players that size go in the higher rounds all the time. Jones' two-way game is solid, but you can always teach a player defense and positioning. Even Ilya Kovalchuk became a great penalty killer after playing no defense in Atlanta. But you can't teach someone offense nearly as easily.
Jones looks like he could contribute at Ohio State right away in a checking role before moving into the Top 6 later in his collegiate career, but after playing in a lower competition Canadian Junior league, there remains questions about his long term offensive upside. But that upside could be there. After putting up only 24 points in 48 games in 2012-13, he tripled his point total and scored 30 more goals, so whichever team takes him will have to hope he stays on the upswing.
Ultimately, checking forwards in the NHL, at least more than you would expect, come from the higher rounds of the draft so there is risk is drafting one specifically for that role. Tyler Biggs' example comes to mind. But if a team believes in Jones' offense he demonstrated in the AJHL, he could go higher than projected.
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 158 among North American Skaters
Family Background: There are a lot of famous Joneses ranging from Chipper to Keith to Jermaine to Barrett, but none of them seem to be related to Nick. Jones hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and played in the Alberta Major Junior League after playing in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League before that, so this is his first foray into American hockey. I hope he likes the freedom.
When Is He Coming to Columbus: 2014-15. He's already signed his National Letter of Intent.
Who Is Nicholas Jones?: First of all, since Jones is from Edmonton, he's probably an Oilers fan. So we should all probably feel sorry for him. Yes, even long suffering Blue Jackets fans.
Maybe, Nick, by the time Halley's Comet comes around again, the Oil will make the playoffs one more time. Let's bring him to some Buckeyes football games. Things will go better. I promise.
Anyway, Nick has some #hottakes on television:
Never watching pretty little liars again #scarystuff— nicholas jones (@n13jones) January 29, 2014
He's easily bored by baseball:
Jays in 30 > full jays game— nicholas jones (@n13jones) July 27, 2013
And he either is bad at finding pens or does his homework in record time:
Draft Projection: It all depends on what teams think his offensive potential can be. If he can build on his 40 goal season in the AJHL, the sky's the limit. If he can't he can still bring his solid two-way game and help out an organization in some way, so my guess is 5th-6th round.