A couple of weeks ago, SB Nation had a long-read feature about 2013 NHL 1st round draft pick Seth Jones. While it has a more intimate look into Jones personal life (retelling how he came to hockey with fresh quotes from his parents and Seth himself), I can't say it was that great a read, as I found a lot of what was included about the NHL just generalized.
The rehashed "defensemaen take a longer time to develop" remark is in there, and I especially took issue with "a need for offense" being tied to the Tampa Bay Lightning's reasoning for selecting Jonathan Drouin over Jones. Bolts fans know that offense was the least of the team concerns last season, and arguably remains of little concern going forward.
It was a different generalization within the article that rubbed me the wrong way enough that I started working on this article. Through broad strokes of ambiguity, it hit a nerve and seemed to clash with logic in a different way than the "need for offense" remark had (in the defense of the feature, its subject was Seth Jones as an athlete and not the greater NHL). It was a dismissive remark toward a versed NHL veteran, someone with ties to the Tampa Bay Lightning and many other NHL teams.
In fact, only 12 defensemen have ever been taken first overall. None - Gord Kluzak, Roman Hamrlik and Chris Phillips, among them - have stood out.
Roman Hamrlik was the very first draft selection by the Tampa Bay Lightning some 21 years ago. He was traded to Edmonton during the dark days of the late 1990's when Lightning ownership was in turmoil and the team itself was in tatters.
Though Roman has bounced around in his career, he has played just shy of 1400 career games, his name may not be on the Stanley Cup, and he may not have won the Norris, but a 21 year career on the blue line doesn't just mean the obvious (longevity) but also that he stood out in one fashion or another to keep teams interested in having his talents within their respective defensive corps.
With 17 seasons of 20+ points, (breaking 40 points six times) as a defenseman, Hamrlik has been the type of consistent defensive force in his career that a team covets.
The article's focus, as I said above, was on Jones and attempts to build a case that Seth could be the first African-American superstar in the NHL. If traditional media coverage of the league remains on the track that it's always taken, Seth becoming a superstar is actually a stretch. No, that's not a reflection on his abilities or what he's capable of accomplishing... It's a remark about coverage and biases by the media, which the league has largely embraced over time.
Teams in the west are handcuffed by eastern bias to begin with. Jones now plays for not only a Western Conference team, but the non-traditional market of Nashville. The Predators current superstar, Shea Webber, may be an annual Norris Trophy contender with thanks to being the lynch pin of a defense-orientated hockey club, but he also is traditionally passed over for other candidates in other, more visible, markets.
Seth Jones has an uphill battle of perception to coincide the need to learn the NHL game and grow into his role on the Preds blue line... He is armed with the talents of JAY Z and Creative Artists Agency behind him to help expose him in ways not traditionally seen from hockey players (and when they are seen, things can get awkward, just ask Wayne Gretzky). In that sense of marketing, Jones is poised to stand out more than Hamrlik. Though Roman had the honor of going #1 overall at the draft, he was a non-English speaking draft pick going to a fledgling non-traditional market.
Seth Jones, not having been selected first overall, may have expectations lowered toward him a bit. Yet if the kid goes on to have a career comparable to what Hamrlik has accomplished (even if he never wins the Cup, never wins the Norris, etc), it's a stand-out career in its own right.