The arrival of Seth Jones midway through the 2015-16 season helped transform the Columbus Blue Jackets’ blue line and pushed the club to “playoff team” status. One of SBNation’s Best 25 Under 25 (he checked in at No. 18, and he doesn’t turn 23 until October), Jones and Zach Werenski will anchor the CBJ defense for the next half-decade, at least. At 6’ 4”, 220 pounds, he’s huge. He’s fast. He scored 12 goals and 30 assists in his first full season in Columbus, both career highs. He made the All-Star Game. He’s great.
OK. We know this. But what else makes Seth Jones so fun to watch? Well, he’s more than capable of making slick, clever plays that make you sit up in your chair and feel lucky that he plays for your favorite team. So during the 2016-17 season, I tried to keep track of some those plays, the ones that don’t necessarily show up in a box score or advanced analytics. Here are a few:
Seth Jones is Fast
This GIF speaks for itself, but look how easily Jones corrals the puck on the move, then slips past a forechecker before easily sidestepping another to lead the offensive rush. This kind of speed and puck control from a defenseman is one thing, but the ability to say “Screw it, I’m doing this” puts Jones at another level.
The other part of this GIF, the context? It was November 21, his first game back from suffering a hairline fracture in his foot two weeks prior. He beat his original prognosis by a week. It looks like he was ready.
Seth Jones Can Handle
From that same November 21 game, here’s an example of Jones’s puckhandling skill in tight spaces. He handles a bouncing puck at the line, avoiding the swinging stick and check of Mikko Rantanen to keep the puck in the zone. While fighting off Rantanen, he continues to control the puck and flips it to safety at the last possible second.
Seth Jones Can Handle (Again)
What’s that? You want *another* zone keep? Well, who am I to refuse. This playdirectly led to a powerplay goal in a 7-6 slugfest win at Ottawa. Marc Methot winds up and slaps the puck around the boards in an attempt to clear the zone, but Jones tracks it and bats it down at the line. That’s enough on its own, but he’s fast enough to find Sam Gagner off the boards in the face of an oncoming Zack Smith. Now you’ve got half of the Senators out of the zone, with numbers in front and more space to work with. As it happened, Gagner squeezed the puck past Methot to Alexander Wennberg, who found Nick Foligno in front of the next for a goal to tie the game at 1-1.
Seth Jones is Strong
Brad Marchand posted the fifth-most points in the NHL last season en route to an All-Star Game appearance. He’s a premier player in this league and here Seth Jones makes him look like a beer leaguer at a fantasy camp. Marchand gets a little too close to the long reach of Jones, who steals the puck before putting his 6’4” frame in front of the Bruin forward and bumping him out of trouble (and then avoiding Marchand’s, ahem, aggressive stick). Don’t test Seth Jones.
Seth Jones Can Move
There's something important this GIF doesn't show: Jones standing stock still for about three full seconds before making his move. Andreas Athanasiou is shading to Sergei Bobrovsky's right, so Jones fakes a clearance left. Athanasiou bites, realizes he's in trouble, and tries to poke the puck away from Jones. Too big and strong for that, Jones blows by him, creates plenty of space and sends the puck up ice on the rush.
Again, though, I had to cut the beginning for file size reasons. Remember that NHL 11 Duncan Keith commercial where he's thinking about what to do with the puck? I like to imagine it was that, but "How can I embarrass Andreas Athanasiou?"
Seth Jones Can Pass
I have way more Seth Jones GIFs, but let's end with this one: Seth Jones finding Cam Atkinson for a beautiful goal to tie the game at 1-1. The move past Josh Gorges, the vision to see Cam and the timing to squeeze it between Marcus Foligno and Justin Falk with almost no room to space. He can do it all.
OK, I lied. Same game against Buffalo. Sit down, Cap.