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Jones' birthday present is NHL debut for Predators

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- For Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones, the best birthday present will come Thursday, when he steps onto the ice in an NHL game for the first time.

Jones, who turned 19 Thursday, will be in the lineup for the Predators, who open the season against the St. Louis Blues.

The No. 4 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, who will skate alongside Mattias Ekholm, said he has envisioned this day since walking up to the podium on draft day.

"Yeah, a little bit," Jones said Thursday. "I feel really good though. It's obviously a great thing that I'm here. I'm looking to move forward every day, and it starts today.

"I know [the NHL] is going to be very intense. I got a taste in preseason and I know it's coming a little bit. You don't really know until you get out there."

Predators coach Barry Trotz called Jones, the son of former NBA player "Popeye" Jones, a mature young man.

"I've learned for a 19-year-old he is very, very wise and very, very mature beyond his years in terms of his game and in terms of self-analysis," Trotz said of Jones. "He has a humbleness about his game and a humbleness off the ice, which I wasn't sure if that was going to be the case.

"He's been everything that's been advertised. What everybody's said about him, he's been that. I know he's well-respected and well-liked in the room already, and when you have a 19-year-old that's being well-respected, just as Filip Forsberg, another young player we have, that tells you you've got some good players."

Jones said he just hopes to make a good impression on his new team after many projected he could have been the top pick in the draft but was not chosen until No. 4.

"I obviously knew it was going to be a lot faster coming into the NHL," Jones said. "I felt confident in what I had and what I brought enough that I'll hopefully be able to stick around."

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