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Max Jones hopes to make immediate impact with Ducks

Forward following in Corey Perry's footsteps after solid junior season with London

by Curtis Zupke / Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Max Jones first met Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry at the Memorial Cup in May.

Jones helped London of the Ontario Hockey League win the Cup. Perry, a London alum, was in attendance and extended a handshake. A few weeks later, their connection was further cemented when Perry sent Jones a congratulatory text message after the Ducks selected Jones in the first round (No. 24) at the 2016 NHL Draft.

"It's kind of cool to talk to a guy like that," Jones said. "It's the same [hockey circle], from London to Anaheim. It's kind of cool to be around that."

The connection between the two could eventually go beyond those two encounters; Jones, 18, is a left wing in the power forward mold, and the Ducks have tried unsuccessfully to fill that void since they won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

Jones, already 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, knows he has a long road but allows himself to think he can be that player.

"It's kind of tough, but I think things happen for a reason, and I think me falling to Anaheim as a left winger is a perfect situation for me," Jones said . "I think with my speed and my compete level and the way I play and how hard I play, I should be able to compete right off the bat. But we'll see what happens. You never know what can happen."

Jones, like Perry, has an edge. Last season, he was ranked second on London with 106 penalty minutes. One scouting report projected him as a Scott Hartnell-type player. Like the Columbus Blue Jackets forward, Jones can also score; he had 52 points in 63 games last season, and his skating ability was on display at Anaheim's developmental camp.

Jones doesn't steer away from Perry's model as a pest and playmaker.

"You try to be like that, but it takes a while to be something special like him and be able to play the way he does," Jones said. "I try to, but maybe if I just keep growing and just keep touching on the areas I need help with, I can be a similar player."

Jones wasn't the only candidate for the left side of Anaheim's attack at development camp. Nick Ritchie, 20, should compete for a bigger role after 33 games with the Ducks last season.

Ritchie, the 10th player selected at the 2014 draft, was the only player at Anaheim's camp with NHL experience. Former Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau briefly played him with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg last season, but Ritchie's impact was mostly on the physical side. At 6-2, 232 pounds, he has an NHL frame. If he can add scoring, he can make a stronger case to be an NHL regular.

"I learned a lot last year, playing my first year pro," Ritchie said. "There were some good pieces when I played, and obviously some negative ones as well. No one's perfect, but I think I can shore some of those up, and probably next and just be a little bit better from the experience."

Another intriguing player was center Sam Steel, a first-round pick (No. 30) this year who could become an effective two-way player.

Steel, 18, is further down the line in his development, at least physically, at 5-11, 177 pounds. He's not quite ready for the "Man of Steel" nickname, although he laughed and said "you see that [nickname] in different articles." But he has a good foundation of responsible, smart play, and he can make up for size with speed. Steel said he takes pride in defense.

"It's a big part of the game," he said. "I think a lot of young players struggle with that and have to learn that to be able to get into the lineup as the level goes up. But I'm a really competitive guy, so I hate getting scored on."

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