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Graduated Prospect: Max Jones
By Thomas Harrington
Max Jones had a rough start to the season, missing all of training camp, preseason, and the beginning of the season because of a thumb injury. There’s little doubt in my mind that if he had been healthy to start the season, he would have been in Anaheim’s opening night lineup, possibly in place of Max Comtois. Instead, he started the year in the AHL.
By mid-October, Jones was healthy and started playing for the Gulls. He had three assists in his first three games and scored his first career AHL goal in his fifth game of the season. When he was in San Diego, Jones played almost entirely in the team’s top six as one of the Gulls’ top two left wingers. In late December and early January, Jones was playing some excellent hockey and finally got a shot at the NHL in mid-January. He went scoreless in those four games and was quickly back in San Diego. He stayed in San Diego until mid-February, until he was called back up to Anaheim, where he would stay until Anaheim’s regular season ended. Once the Ducks’ season was done, he came back to San Diego for three more regular season games. Overall, he played in 43 AHL games and scored 14 goals and 29 points. His 14 goals were tied for eighth on the Gulls, and his 29 points were 10th.
Jones had a bit of a rough ride in the playoffs. He played great against San Jose in the first round and recorded four assists in four games. In game four against the Barracuda, Jones was injured and missed the second half of the game. He returned for game one against Bakersfield, but he was once again injured in game three of that series. He missed the rest of the series against the Condors and didn’t return to action until game six against Chicago. Overall, he played in eight games and recorded four assists. If healthy, he likely would have put up better numbers and may have made a difference against the Wolves.
After going scoreless in his first four NHL games, Jones was back in Anaheim’s lineup on February 13th, but it took him a few more games for him to get his first NHL point, an assist against Minnesota. Despite his lack of scoring, there’s no question that Jones was playing well, getting chances left and right, and either just missing or forcing the opposing goalie to make a great save. His strong play led to him being one of Anaheim’s four call-ups from San Diego after the trade deadline. It wasn’t until March when Jones finally scored his first career goal, a great individual effort where he skated up the ice, kept control of the puck through several Montreal defenders, and beat Carey Price with a great shot.
Overall, he played in 30 games with the Ducks and scored two goals and five points. Not great numbers, but again, if not for some great saves, he would have scored quite a few more goals. He did have 58 shots on goal, second only to Kiefer Sherwood among Anaheim rookies. Jones averaged 46 seconds of shorthanded ice time per game, showing that the Ducks think he could be a useful penalty killer in the future.
In terms of expectations, my two big ones were his health and discipline. Well, injuries hurt him at the start of the year, but he was healthy for the rest of the year until the playoffs. In terms of discipline, he did a good job of not hurting Anaheim or San Diego with bad or dangerous penalties. He had 50 PIMs in San Diego, but only 14 with the Ducks. Hopefully, he continues to keep his penalties down.
Right now, Anaheim’s top left winger is Rickard Rakell, but there’s a noticeable drop after him. Second would probably be Devin Shore, followed by Nick Ritchie, and that’s really it. So there’s at least one open left wing spot in the lineup, possibly two if Shore spends more time at center next season. So there’s definitely room for Jones in Anaheim’s lineup, and I think he’ll take it next year. Unless he has an absolutely atrocious training camp, I’ll be very surprised if he’s not one of Anaheim’s left wings when next season begins, and keep that spot for most, if not all, of the season.
Jones has shown that he’s an effective forechecker and physical player in the NHL. Now, he needs to take the next step and show that he’s a true power forward. He had numerous chances this season, and now he needs to start burying them. While he probably won’t ever be a top line left wing, he certainly has the skills to become a 20-25 goal scorer in the NHL.
Jones has two more years remaining on his entry-level contract. Assuming he stays with the Ducks for the majority of the next two seasons, he’ll have earned himself a one-way deal in two years. If he’s got a 20 goal season or two under his belt, it could be a long-term one, but I think that it’s more likely he signs a two- or three-year bridge deal, possibly similar to the one that Ritchie signed this season.
With the graduated prospects now complete, it’s time to turn my attention to the draft. Expect the prospect profiles and updates to start posting once the draft is completed.
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June 18th, 2019