New York Rangers defenseman, Zac Jones was always going to have a difficult time making the team for opening night. The 20 year-old, drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft had an excellent camp, but got caught up in a numbers game.
“Jonesy didn’t do nothing wrong,” Gerard 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.”
For what’s it worth, Jones pushed Lundkvist to the brink. The 21 year-old Swede responded, excelling at camp and is deserving of the last spot on the blue-line.
Zac Jones has the right attitude
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.
“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 admitted back at Development 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.”
All the kid did after that was standout. He also made it clear just prior to being sent down this week where he feels he’s at. “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 is expected to be paired with righty Braden Schneider and form the Wolf Pack’s top two defensemen.
Gallant admits Jones made it tough
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 opportunity with the depth we’ve got on the blue line we have to make some tough decisions and that was a tough one.”
One way or another, Jones is going to play in the NHL this season. Take that to the bank.
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