Each year, the various sites of SBNation.com that cover the 30 teams of the NHL get together for a mock draft. Each team of writers is on the clock to make selections for the draft picks their teams have in the first round. Realistic and reasonable trades are allowed between teams.
Last year, Raw Charge selected Anthony Beauvillier with the 28th overall pick. Ultimately in real life, Steve Yzerman traded the 28th overall pick to the New York Islanders for a 2nd round pick, 33rd overall, and a 3rd round pick, 72nd overall. Those two picks were used to draft forwards Mitchell Stephens and Anthony Cirelli. Both players have already signed entry level contracts and made their professional debuts with the Syracuse Crunch at the end of the 2015-16 season.
Since Steve Yzerman and Al Murray took over and got their program of scouting and assessment in place for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, we have seen them go in two directions. In the beginning, high end skill players were targeted to re-stock the cupboard. This led to the picks of Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Matthew Peca, Slater Koekkoek, Jonathan Drouin, and Adam Erne as well as goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first three years. In the past two drafts, there has been a shift towards more complimentary players with a sprinkling of skill players to fill in the gaps.
At this point, there aren't any glaring needs in the prospect pipeline as Yzerman and Murray have put together a well rounded farm system. It's a little bit short on forwards with the combination of size and skill and could use a couple more puck moving defensemen, but overall, the vision should be for players that will start to filter into the NHL line up in 3 to 5 seasons.
See our earlier trade announcement for details of the trade made.
With the 20th overall pick in the 1st round, the Lightning select Max Jones from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Jones has a big frame at 6'3" and 201 pounds. He is a left handed shot and a natural left winger. In 2015-16 for the Knights, he had 28 goals and 24 assists for 52 points in 63 games. He also had 106 penalty minutes and a plus-30 plus-minus rating. While his points total isn't gaudy, it's also important to note that he was the team's second left winger behind Matthew Tkachuk. That meant he was on the 2nd line at even strength and often served on the 2nd power play unit.
Jones is a good skater and plays on the edge, but is known to sometimes go over the edge and take bad penalties. He was suspended for 12 games during the OHL playoffs due to a check to the head. Reviewing the video, it was a bad hit to make. However, the OHL, along with the QMJHL and WHL, have been sending strong messages about checks to the head and other dangerous plays. I believe if this hit was made in the NHL, it would have warranted a 2-3 game suspension. Jones will need to learn to harness his aggression and not put his team in a bad situation by making those kind of bad decisions. That can come with maturity and coaching.
Check out these highlights from an October game when Jones (number 49 in white) had a hat trick for the Knights. You'll notice several plays where he is back checking hard and picks the pocket or disrupts rushing puck carriers as he has worked on improving his defensive game.
Here's a feature with interviews and highlights of Max Jones. Note the comments from his coach talking about him playing on the Penalty Kill. Offensively skilled players in the OHL don't always play on the penalty kill. But he made a mark there helping the Knights improve greatly in his rookie season.
To prove that point, here's a video of him scoring a beauty of a short handed goal.
Before joining the London Knights for the 2015-16 season, Jones was in the U.S. National Team Development Program. He had 28 points in 38 games for the U17 team and 10 points in 24 games for the overall program in USHL play. Jones also contributed 7 goals and 4 assists in 6 games for Team USA's U17 team in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. His 11 points were 2nd overall in the tournament.
Jones will likely spend two more years with London before he can make the move full time to the professional ranks. He is in a very good situation there with one of the consistently best teams in the OHL. They've just won a Memorial Cup and are set up to possibly repeat next season. If Tkachuk, a possible top-five pick, is able to make it with an NHL team out of camp, that would only open up more opportunities for Jones to become the top dog in London.
Ultimately, Jones has the potential to become a top six, power forward that can score 40-50 points a season while contributing on the power play and penalty kill. He's already got size and good skating on his side. He'll need to continue to refine his all around game and his discipline. You want him to play aggressive, and play tough, but you don't want him going over the edge and taking bad penalties. Jones also fills a need in the system for more players with size and skill and power forwards in particular as Adam Erne is the only real top six power forward prospect currently in the Lightning organization.