New York Rangers should give Zac Jones a chance

The New York Rangers promoted defenseman Zac Jones from their newly formed taxi squad on Monday. He is currently acting as their seventh defenseman, but it would be a wise move to give him a game soon.

Jones, 21, was selected by the Blueshirts in the third round (68th overall) during the 2019 NHL Draft. After an excellent college career, he made his Blueshirts debut at the tail end of last season picking up 4 assists in 10 games. This season for the Wolf Pack, he leads all defensemen in scoring with 17 points in 21 games.

He’s earned his way back up to club and he did it with the right attitude.

Zac Jones almost made the team out of camp

“I’m coming in trying to make the team, I know it’s going to be difficult and I don’t have a spot,” Jones said during camp. “If I get sent down to the AHL, it’s not going to be a big deal for me, I’m just going to work hard and get back to the NHL.”

The truth is he was always going to have a difficult time making the team for opening night because he got caught up in a numbers game. Head coach Gerard Gallant admitted as much after finalizing the roster.

“Jonesy didn’t do nothing wrong,” Gallant said after Jones was sent to the AHL. “He’s played well and it’s all about numbers and how many you can keep on your roster. Everything Jonesy’s done at camp was excellent. He’s going in the right direction, and again, Lundkvist’s has played very good hockey too.”

Dating back to last season, Jones has shown he has the confidence and right attitude to play in the NHL. Coming into camp, Jones was smart enough to see the writing on the wall with five spots out of six essentially locked up. He knew it would be a battle between him and highly touted Swedish prospect Nils Lundkvist. Yet, he wasn’t deterred.

All the kid did in training camp was standout. He also made it clear just prior to being sent down that he knows where he belongs. “I think I deserve to play in the NHL,” Jones explained. “If I get sent down, I’m not going to complain about it… I’m going to go down there and work as hard as I can to get myself back up to the NHL.”

Jones deserves the opportunity

zac jones
Apr 22, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Zac Jones #6 of the New York Rangers takes the puck in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Jones is not a big physical defenseman, but his skating and puck moving ability give him a huge advantage on the ice. Furthermore, he has something very important going for him and that is high hockeyIQ.

I know, what is hockeyIQ? Is there a test? Can you look at his grades? Simply put, Jones seems to know where the puck is and his relation to it at all times. He’s even drawn comparisons to Adam Fox, and not just because they are basically the same exact size.

His UMASS head coach, Greg Carvel had some glowing remarks about him before he signed his ELC. “He’s a high high end offensive player – he’ll be a similar player to Adam Fox in New York,” he said. “He’s getting physically stronger. His growth without the puck over the past two years has been outstanding. He’s an outstanding college player and he will be in the NHL someday.”

In the end, Gallant was very impressed with him and he relayed the sentiments of the entire organization. “He’s a young player, we like him a lot and he’s going to be in New York a lot,” he said. “But with the depth we’ve got on the blue line we have to make some tough decisions and that was a tough one.”

Now, the hope is that Gallant sees enough from him at practice to give him a shot.

Who knows, maybe Jones impresses so much that he never sees Hartford again.

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