NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Seth Jones' jersey already is setting Nashville's first-round draft pick apart from the other prospects at the Predators' annual development camp.
Jones, selected by the Predators with the fourth overall pick in the June 30 draft, stepped onto the ice with his preferred No. 3 sewn on the back of practice jersey. Many of the other campers sported the much higher numbers typically given to prospects who are years away from reaching the NHL.
Jones is only 18 years old, but the Predators are going to give the 6-foot-4 defenceman every opportunity to make Nashville's season-opening roster.
"He's a young man, who you can tell at 18-years-old, he's got lots of poise and polish and moves pretty well," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "He's a foundation-type player who will be a foundation-type for us for a number of years."
Jones joined other Predators prospects on an early-morning track workout at nearby Vanderbilt University in the oppressive Tennessee heat and humidity. He then got on the ice for a practice session that consisted mostly of power skating drills.
"It was pretty intense," Jones said. "It was good to get back on the ice and learn from some of the coaches who are here."
Jones was the top player on the NHL Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters eligible for the 2013 draft. The Predators happily took him after the Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning drafted forwards instead.
Jones already has Tennessee roots.
He's the son of former NBA forward Popeye Jones, who was born and raised in the west Tennessee town of Dresden. Popeye Jones played in the NBA from 1993-2004.
This week's development camp is his first on-ice audition for the coaching and management staffs of the Predators at their practice facility. After one season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, Jones hopes that his junior hockey days are behind him.
Jones also was a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the 2013 World Junior Championships.
"I have been asked whether he can play for our team this year," Predators general manager David Poile said last week. "Our scouts feel he can. The hockey world feels he can."
Leading the players on the ice Tuesday was Scott Nichol, who was named Nashville's director of player development last month after ending a 20-season pro playing career this spring.
Trotz wasn't on the ice with the players Tuesday, but he was present and stood close to the boards to watch the prospects who hope to play for him one day.
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