Michigan native Max Jones is a top forward prospect in this year's draft, being ranked 14th by Central Scouting at the final rankings, and holding the 11 spot at the midterm rankings before that. Considering that this is for North American skaters, given his American heritage, this gives him a strong chance to be drafted in the first round this year.
Max has spent time both in the US National Team Development Program and also in the Ontario Hockey League playing mostly left wing. Up until last year he was playing in American leagues and gaining experience with the USNTDP, but then he decided to spend a year playing for the London Knights before entering the draft. It seems like a great choice for him, as he had a very successful year in London, both personally and with the team as a whole, as they won the Memorial Cup over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL last month.
Of course the question for our New Jersey Devils is whether or not he is worth taking at #11 overall, as there is almost no chance that he would fall to the team in the second round. And if he did, he is basically an automatic pick at that point. So, let's take a look at him and come to our own conclusions.
Who is Max Jones?
Max is a big left winger, standing 6'3" and weighing over 200 pounds. That right there is a huge bonus for him, as size cannot be taught and has considerable benefits to someone who knows how to use that size to their advantage. He will have the ability to muscle players off of the puck and use his body to gain and hold quality real estate right in front of opposing goaltenders. The numbers bear out that he does this as well, as he is a penalty minute machine. This past season he had 106 PIMs in 63 games. Last season, he had 189 PIMs in 38 games for the US National U17 team, and another 116 PIMs in 24 games for the USNTDP Juniors. He is not afraid to play dirty and take the consequences. In fact, he took a 12 game suspension during the OHL playoffs this year for a real bad hit on an Owen Sound Attack skater. It was particularly bad, and could affect his draft status for some teams who will not tolerate actions like that.
However, this past season he was very successful in generating points for London, producing 52 points in 63 games, with 28 of those points coming as goals. That might not be over a point per game, but it is still exceptional, especially given over half of his points were goals and not assists. Plus, the competition is not easy in the OHL, and producing like that in his first season in London speaks volumes. He also was a vital cog in the Memorial Cup run, producing 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games. He showed right there that he is able to play well in pressure packed situations, which is another positive to take away from the numbers.
The one real detriment in the numbers is that he has not been consistently successful at the highest levels, whereas other mid-first round prospects have been. Last year, before joining the Knights, he played very well for the US U17 team, but really did not perform all that well in the USHL for the USNTDP team. There, he only scored 10 points in 24 games. That could be why he really did not play last year for the U18 team as well, instead spending most of the time with the U17 team. His numbers were great there, but the competition is not quite the same. Now, you can say that those concerns are all put to rest now because of the great season he had in London against quality competition, but it is something that could drop him down a few picks as compared to others ranked around him by CSS. In the end, however, make no mistake about it: he is a quality prospect in almost every sense of the word.
What Others Have Said About Jones
Elite Prospects has a little blurb on him, written by Curtis Joe. Here is some of what he had to say about 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...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."
There is more written about him there, and you should definitely check it all out, but I wanted to highlight these as they speak directly to his game. He indeed uses his body as a power forward, with both strength and speed to create opportunities in front of the net. He also has the intelligence to make smart moves, not just acting like a brute out there. Those are all aspects that can make him a successful NHLer.
Bill Placzek over at Draft Site currently has Jones projected to go #18 overall to Philadelphia, and wrote this amongst other things:
"Big aggressive winger who plays a passionate high energy aggressive style...Is more of a North-South skater who bulls his way through to wherever he is going and crash and bangs. Has a strong shot that packs some wallop...He is known to stick up for teammates and gets them more space because of it. Displays high character along with toughness... A streaky scorer and the jury is out as to whether he can contribute heavily in that aspect. Plays like an old fashion grinder, who may gain more consistency as a finisher as he develops. But he may end up as a checker who can chip in a goal here or there."
I included a little more from Bill as he speaks to both the positives and the potential concerns, and I wanted to highlight both. The positives that he wrote are very similar to what Curtis wrote at Elite Prospects. He is powerful, tough, and uses his body to create space and opportunities. Placzek also mentions a heavy shot which is a plus from someone that size. However, the concerns are also evident. Max has been a streaky scorer potentially because of the way he plays, and some may be worried that he really only becomes a grinder on a checking line who only chips in points here and there. That would not be successful for a first rounder. Think Steve Bernier: he was a quality 3rd or 4th liner and had the size, but never developed into the first round talent that San Jose was looking for when they took him at #16 overall. Whoever takes Max will have to hope that he can become a consistent scorer instead of a grinder.
Max Jones was a part of Last Word On Sports' Top Shelf Prospects column, and they did a preview on him a couple months ago. Instead of giving you specifics on his game, which I have tried to highlight earlier, here is Ben Kerr's conclusion about him (if you want to read more, check out the link. They give a detailed profile):
"Going forward, Jones must find a way to be more consistent on a night in and night out basis. He also needs to work on his discipline, and avoid putting himself in situations that can hurt the team. Max Jones has the potential to be a top six forward in the NHL, if he can put it all together. He plays the game similar to Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on talent."
So it is similar to what was said over at Draft Site. Max needs to be more consistent, and he does take penalties. However, he has the size and talent to be a star in this league if he can put it all together. Comparing his style of play to Corey Perry is high praise indeed.
A Little Video
Here is a highlight video from The Draft Analyst:
Here are more highlights from this past season when he was on London:
Even more highlights:
Finally for something different, here is the hit that gave him his suspension during the OHL playoffs. You can be the judge as to whether or not it should have warranted a suspension.
Well first, let me get it out of the way about what New Jersey should do: in my opinion, I think taking him at #11 is a reach. Yes he does have good size, a strong work ethic, and does the dirty work on the offensive end that most forwards do not want to deal with, and there are positives to that. He also scores often, although he is streaky. However, I think taking him at 11 is too high. There are other players, forwards that have more natural scoring ability that the Devils really could use. Guys like Logan Brown, Tyson Jost, Kieffer Bellows, and the AATJ mock draft choice of our dreams, Clayton Keller. Max Jones may be in a similar boat to those players, but I would personally take any one of them over him given what I have read and seen, and at least one should be available at 11, if not more than one.
Just because I would advise against the Devils taking him at 11, however, does not mean that he is without talent. I think that Max Jones has great potential, and could become a very successful top 6 forward in the NHL one day. He has the size, tenacity, shot, will to generate plays, he is not afraid to get to the dirty areas and do what needs to be done, and he is willing to stick up for his teammates, which makes him a great person to have in the locker room. If he can become a consistent scorer, and if he can figure out a way to cut down on his PIMs so that he can be on the ice more, he will absolutely succeed and thrive for whoever drafts him. There is that concern about scoring and his streaky nature which could spell disaster, however, and no one wants to draft a checking line winger in the first round, but I feel like the odds are better that he will continue to score at a decent clip and will improve in his consistency.
In the end, however, I will be hoping that I hear another name being drafted for the New Jersey Devils at #11. Max Jones would not be the worst name to hear called, but I believe there will be better, purer scorers out there that this team desperately needs.
What is your take? Do you like Max Jones, or are you nervous about him? Do you think he is too reliant on his size and takes too many penalties, or do you like that he is not afraid to throw his body around? What do you think about the suspension he took in the OHL playoffs? Where do you think he should go in the first round, and most importantly, do you think the Devils should be targeting him at #11? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.