Ben Jones returned to Vegas as confident as ever for his third development camp this June.
Rightfully so, as the Golden Knights prospect is coming off a breakout season with the Ontario Hockey League's Niagara IceDogs in which the forward collected a staggering 102 points (41 G, 61 A) in 68 games - a productive season for Jones who admits he takes pride in his defense first. It was his fourth season with the IceDogs and first in which he led the team in scoring.
Originally from Waterloo, Ontario, the centerman made his OHL debut at 16 years old for Niagara, appearing in 61 games during the 2015-16 season. A year later, Jones caught the attention of George McPhee and the hockey operations team as he put together a steady 50 points (13 G, 37 A) in 63 games for the IceDogs. Jones went on to round out the inaugural season's draft class as the 189th pick in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The next stop for him would be the Golden Knights first-ever development camp.
"The first year I was really tense," said Jones. "It was a new experience, but the older guys helped me get the message across: Just be comfortable, be the best player you can be. You're here for a reason, give it all you can every day and that is all anyone can really ask of you."
Since then the 6-foot forward has looked to be that presence that helps get the message across to younger players, similar to the actions of another forward Golden Knights fans are familiar with.
"A leadership role similar to what Alex Tuch did in the first-year camp," he said. "Alex came in really being a leader for the guys that are new."
That leadership role caught the eye of Niagara IceDogs head coach Billy Burke as Jones was named an alternate captain during his post-draft season of 2017-18, when the forward made the jump to a 79-point season (30 G, 49 A). The Golden Knights then signed their prospect to a three-year entry level contract and Jones returned to Niagara for the 2018-19 season where he was one of just nine OHL forwards to surpass the 100-point mark.
Now, Jones expects to return to Vegas for rookie camp in September and compete for a spot with the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves. Despite his recent offensive surge, he plans to remain the same two-way forward the Golden Knights drafted two years back.
"Just try to be the player that I am. I'm here for a reason, they signed me and drafted me for a reason," he said. "Show them what I'm good at and continue to improve every day. That is kind of the staple of the organization, always move forward."