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NHL Draft

London's Jones staying physical at Memorial Cup

Top NHL Draft prospect working way back after 12-game suspension

by Derek Van Diest / Correspondent

RED DEER, Alberta -- Left wing Max Jones of London of the Ontario Hockey League plays on the edge, which makes him an interesting option at the 2016 NHL Draft. 

Jones, 18, son of retired NHL forward Bradley Jones, is No. 14 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. He had a goal and assist in London's 9-1 win against Western Hockey League champion Brandon at the 2016 Memorial Cup on Monday, but is coming off a 12-game suspension for an illegal hit during a game against Owen Sound in the first round of the OHL playoffs March 30. 

Monday was Jones' fourth game since returning from the suspension.

"I like to play the body," he said. "I feel I can take time and space away from the opponent when I'm hitting and frustrating them. I think that's kind of my game and I plan on doing that for the rest of the [Memorial] Cup."

Jones had 28 goals, 52 points and 106 penalty minutes in 63 games as a rookie this season, and was nominated for the Emms Family Award as the OHL Rookie of the Year. Alexander Nylander of Mississauga won the award.

Against Brandon, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound forward and his linemates, center Cliff Pu (No. 75 on Central Scouting's final ranking) and right wing Aaron Berisha, provided secondary scoring for London, which has been led its top line of Mitchell Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs), Christian Dvorak (Arizona Coyotes) and Matthew Tkachuk (No. 2 on Central Scouting's final ranking). 

That line combined for 10 points in the win against Brandon; the line of Jones, Pu and Berisha had seven. 

"Max Jones was suspended for a few games, he missed a couple of rounds and just got back to playing," London coach Dale Hunter said. "It takes a while to get the chemistry going. I was happy to see that they moved the puck around and passed the puck around well, and went to the net hard and got rewarded for it."

Pu scored what became the winning goal at 7:50 of the first period. At the time, London led 2-0, and then at 14:36 of the first Jones set up Berisha for a power-play goal to make it 3-0.

Jones said his line took inspiration from London's top line on their power-play goal in the first period, which came with Brandon right wing Reid Duke (Minnesota Wild) in the penalty box serving a double-minor for high-sticking.  

"We took that four-minute [power play] and we got out there on the second half of that power play, and I think we only scored because we saw them do some magic on the first half of the power play," Jones said. "It's fun to watch them play. They know where each other are. It's kind of weird at times but it's really cool. It's interesting."

Jones scored his first goal of the tournament at 18:16 of the second period to give London a 7-1 lead. He came out of the penalty box, received a long pass from defenseman Olli Juolevi and beat goaltender Jordan Papirny on a 2-on-1 rush. 

"I've been playing good hockey [since returning from suspension], so I just want to keep playing that game," Jones said. "We just have to keep playing the way we are. We swept three straight series in the OHL [playoffs], and we just have to keep on doing what we're doing. If we keep doing that I think we're going to succeed."

Stelio Mattheos scored a power-play goal for Brandon at 6:26 of the second period but the Wheat Kings trailed 5-0 at the time.

"Credit to our opponent. London played extremely well and they were just better in all those aspects of the game where you need to be good at this time of the year," Brandon coach Kelly McCrimmon said. "Their speed I thought was very good. They backed us right off in terms of their offensive play. … Our team not ever playing the way we can, the combination of that led to a very one-sided game."

London, which has won its first two games in round-robin play, next plays Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Tuesday. A win would clinch London a berth in the final Sunday. 

Brandon is 0-2; it lost 5-3 to Rouyn-Noranda on Saturday.

"I thought all four lines were going and our defense were going. They moved the puck very well," Hunter said. "We had a lot of speed out there and got a lot of goals from it. It's one of those things where we had good opportunities and we buried them. It's a power play. It's about making the right plays at the right time. And they ended up in the net."


What we learned: London is going to be difficult to defeat in the tournament. The OHL champion has outscored the two WHL teams, Red Deer and Brandon, 15-3. London's top line of Marner, Tkachuk and Dvorak combined for 10 points in a 6-2 win against Red Deer Rebels on Friday and had another 10 against Brandon on Monday. 

Key moment: Duke was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking at 12:33 of the first period with Brandon trailing 2-0. Berisha scored on the power play to give London a 3-0 lead and the rout was on.  

Player of the game: Dvorak. Had a hat trick and one assist. He has five goals and three assists in two games at the 2016 Memorial Cup. 

Quotable: "Credit to both of our opponents. The two teams that we've played, played us really well. Sometimes that's part of why we don't look like we can. But I think there is more to it than that. I think that for whatever the reasons we haven't had the resolve or the urgency to our game in the tournament that we had to earn the right to be here." -- Brandon Wheat Kings coach Kelly McCrimmon 

Tuesday: Rouyn-Noranda vs. London (10 p.m. ET; SN, SN360, TVA Sports 2; NHLN tape delay May 25, 11 a.m. ET)

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