Introduction and Background
Well, well, well, we meet again Caleb Jones… I have drawn Jones for two years in a row in this little series. Jones ranked as seventh last year in the Copper and Blue Top 25 Under 25. He’s risen to the sixth this year, indicating that some of the promise from last year has started to be fulfilled.
Caleb Jones was drafted by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, selected in the fifth round, 117th overall. Jones represents one of only a couple of lower round draft picks the Oilers have had success in developing.
Jones played his junior with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks; he has also won both U18 and U20 World Junior Championship tournaments with the USA. Jones, the younger brother of Seth Jones, spent the majority of his last season in the NHL. He played 43 games in the NHL with the Oilers and 14 games in the AHL with the Bakersfield Condors. Jones had a very successful 2019-2020 season in that he came up to the Oilers roster and didn’t leave… until a pandemic shut down hockey.
Jones finished his NHL season with nine points and four goals. Jones has definitely arrived at the NHL level for the Oilers. Jones has been averaging between about 10 and 18 minutes on ice, with a couple 20 plus minute games. Jones has arrived as a critical part of the Oilers defensive core.
The Copper and Blue team seem pretty unified in our ranking. Jones seems like a pretty solid young pick for the Oilers.
Why He Made the List
Jones is one of the numerous defensive prospects in the Oilers system. In a reversal of earlier times, there are a great many of the Oilers top prospects who are defensive prospects. This should, in theory, make it more difficult on Jones. However, Jones has been a consistent defensive prospect for the Oilers, logging significant NHL games and minutes for the Oilers. This was Jones’ second call up for the Oilers in two seasons and Jones’s game improved enough between the two seasons that he was able to secure a roster spot.
Jones success really began when he was called up to the Oilers for a November 14, 2019 game against the Colorado Avalanche. During his second NHL stint, Jones made the most of his time with four goals and five more assists, significant time on ice, and a game winning goal. Jones, as much as any top prospect aside from McDavid, has made his case for why he should remain on the Oilers roster for the upcoming season… whenever it is coming.
Jones is a versatile two-way defender who has a physical game. More than anything though Jones shows the potential to be able to think through his game, something other Oilers defenders seem to lack. His mobility is good and he has a decent shot. Jones is a capable, NHL ready defender making him a bit of a rarity on this list. An NHL ready player.
Why He Made the List at 6
There are probably a tonne of reasons why Jones isn’t higher on this list… he’s part of a deep defensive prospect pool. He has to prove he belongs a place ahead of defenders like Klefbom, Nurse, or Bear and prospects like Bouchard and Broberg (both drafted considerably higher than he was). But his continued progress up the list is because of his strong 2019-2020 season. Though, I suppose we could have considered the fact he had COVID when he came back to the NHL bubble as indicative of poor risk assessment skills, we didn’t. Global pandemics are new for all of us.
Jones doesn’t have the offensive potential of some other defensive prospects. He’s a solid player but he’s not flashy. He’s a solid player and solid players are often not as valuable to an organization as high offensive upside can be. Jones also isn’t currently playing in Europe like a lot of younger Oilers players and prospects. Hopefully this means he’ll be ready for a return to NHL action should it occur in January.