Zac Jones time is almost upon us as Rangers deal with Jacob Trouba injury

By Grant Grosskopf
Apr 8, 2021; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; UMass Minutemen defenseman Zac Jones (24) celebrates his goal with the bench during the first period in the semifinals of the 2021 Frozen Four NCAA hockey tournament against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In 2019 all eyes were on Kaapo Kakko as the 2nd overall pick in the draft, but not many fans would have thought that in two short years Zac Jones, drafted 68th overall in the 3rd round, would be close to making his NHL debut.

Jones has been described as a gifted offensive defenseman with improving defensive skills in his last couple seasons at UMass. Zac Jones is just one of the many gifted prospects the Rangers have in their pipeline and signs point to him making his NHL debut soon. This could happen tonight with Jacob Trouba already ruled out.

Zac Jones from USHL to NHL

When Zac Jones was drafted he had just finished his season in the USHL for the Tri-City Storm. Jones was almost a point per game player as he tallied up 52 points in 56 games, an impressive feat for a young defenseman. He has always been on the smaller end being 5’10” and only 172lbs but that hasn’t stopped him from success in every level he has played thus far.

Jones went to UMass college in 2019 and had a quality year as a freshman putting up 23 points in 32 games. Unfortunately, the season was cancelled due to COVID and the UMass Minutemen sat at the number 9 ranking to end the season. Going into the 2020-2021 season, UMass ranked 7 and were looking to build off their successful season.

The UMass team never ranked lower than 10 the entire season and went into the NCAA tournament ranked 6th after beating UMass Lowell in the Hockey East championships. Jones had improved from his freshman year amassing 24 points in 29 names as a sophomore and was one of the UMass’s relied defensemen in the playoffs.

UMass went to win the NCAA tournament and Jones was named to the NCAA (East) Second All-American team. Jones was also 3rd among NCAA defensemen in points and 1st among defensemen in points for freshman or sophomores. Three days after Jones was a national champion the New York Rangers signed Jones to an entry level contract. 

zac jones
Zachary Jones selected 68th overall by the New York Rangers during the 2019 NHL Draft (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)

When Will Jones Make His Debut?

So far Jones has just been practicing with the team, but he has been getting praise from his teammates such a Brendan Smith saying Jones has “a little Foxy skill”. 

That is some praise, although Jones has been compared to Fox with similar IQ and skill sets before. Jones has also been given praise from Coach Quinn as well, but has said with low amounts of team practices it has been tough judging Jones more effectively. 

“It’s been hard because we haven’t had a lot of team practices so it’s been tough to judge him,” David Quinn explained on a date for Zac Jones debut. “From the stuff that you see, he’s got a quick brain, quick stick, a great skill set – really understand the game,” he continued. “We have another practice tomorrow and it will give us another opportunity to get a feel for what he’s capable of doing.”

In typical Quinn fashion, Jones has to earn his spot on the roster and won’t be given to him. With the Rangers losing badly to the Isles 6-1 and Bietto looking like a liability on the ice and Trouba potentially out for the time being, it is looking promising for Jones to debut soon.

Zac Jones’ first game is nearly here and he is just another example of how successful the Rangers have been drafting the last few years during their rebuild. It will be a treat to watch him blossom into a competitive NHL defenseman.

Random Rangers Fact for the Day

Brian Leetch was the first non-Canadian and first American to with the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994. 

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