Seth Jones accepts a Nashville Predators sweater after going No. 4 overall on Sunday (The Associated Press)
NEWARK, N.J. — Seth Jones knows draft day is about where a player goes, not when it happens.
The NHL draft is not an Olympic event, no matter how much we in the media and fans tend to turn it in one one. Still, it was the story of the first round when Jones, Central Scouting's top-ranked North American skater, went not second, not third, but fourth to the Nashville Predators. If you had Jones at No. 4 in your mock draft, there's a seat open on the New York Stock Exchange.
"I'd be lying if I wasn't thinking about going to those teams," Jones said, referring to the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. "At the same time I'm excited to be a Predator, I am aware of the needs of the other teams, but this is where I ended up."
Jones knew the Avalanche were taking his friend, Halifax Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon. He had no read either way on the Florida Panthers, who met with Jones on Saturday but took Tappara centre Aleksander Barkov second.
"It was kind of just another general meeting, very similar to the one at the combine," the 6-foot-4, 206-pound Jones said. "They asked me a couple of hockey questions, not too deep, wasn't soul-searching."
Seth Jones, "I'm gonna make those top 3 teams regret not taking me."
— Josh Rimer (@JoshRimerHockey) June 30, 2013
Take after Weber
The 18-year-old Jones is joining a Predators organization that lost key defenceman Ryan Suter to free agency and 2012 and have long-time star Shea Weber to serve as a valuable elder and role model. His Team USA coach from the world junior championship, Phil Housley, just joined Nashville's coaching staff. Plus Tennessee is former NBAer father Roland (Popeye) Jones' home state; Jones' grandmother still lives there.
So is quote-unquote falling to No. 4 really that bad? Not in Popeye's eyes.
"Seth is going to have a great veteran to learn from with Shea Weber," the elder Jones said. "When you have a guy like that on your team, you want to go to his house, you want to see what makes him so successful.
"It was the same for me when I was in the NBA [as a young player]. Derek Harper, who was a long-time Maverick. Every day I was with Derek Harper, learning how to be a pro. Seth is going to have the same opportunity with Shea Weber."
The follow-the-leader phenomenon will always affect draft coverage. Everyone's powerless to stop it. Jones, by most accounts, bore up well from being the lead horse for much of the season. MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, who went No. 3 overall to Tampa Bay, flipped the script by leading the Halifax Mooseheads past Jones and the Portland Winterhawks at the Memorial Cup five weeks ago. It helped create suspense that ended up stretching out longer than most anticipated.
"I felt pretty bad for him because he had cameras in his face," fellow defenceman Darnell Nurse, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds standout who went No. 7 to the Edmonton Oilers, said of Jones. "I was like, 'please get them out, let him relax.'
"He's really mature," added Nurse, who as one of the top six prospects spent much of the last week being paraded in front of the media by the NHL. "Stuff like that is not going to affect him. He's a hockey player. A lot of stuff is just out of your hands. You want to be part of a great situation, that's it."
Ultimately, Jones will be going into one with Nashville. Ultimately, it just so happened that the dynamic offensive creators Barkov, Drouin and MacKinnon were too tempting to pass on to take a cornerstone defenceman. This was just not a year to take a defenceman No. 1.
"It is tough with not having control," Jones said. "You feel like you didn't do all that you could during the season. I don't think that's the case here. I was a pretty good year in the WHL and I had a pretty good Memorial Cup. You got to give it to those forwards. They had great seasons as well."
As for motivation, Jones acknowledged that believing he'll draw motivation from three teams taking a different player is true to some extent. To a larger extent, it's shallow thinking.
"I'm competitive, that's my nature, I get that from parents, You definitely want to prove them wrong. That's not my only goal but it's definitely on my list."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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