Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2016 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
BUFFALO -- Max Jones is one prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo who can use his skill set to set him apart.
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Jones has the makeup to be a prototypical power forward, but it's everything else he can do that has him 11th in NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings among North American skaters.
"[Jones is a] power forward who is an excellent skater and displays separation speed," said Dan Marr, NHL Director of Central Scouting. "[He is a] hard-hitting player who plays the game with an edge. Very good shot with a quick release. Loves to take the puck to the net and has good hands in tight."
Jones has 21 goals and 40 points for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League this season. It's an improvement from last season, when he scored five goals and 10 points in 25 games for the United States National Team Development Program squad in the United States Hockey League. His ability to score goals has helped improve his standing headed into the draft, set for June 24-25 at First Niagara Center.
"He possesses a rare blend of size, speed and skill," Matt Ryan of NHL Central Scouting said. "His separation speed and quickness make him a very intriguing prospect. He is a very dynamic skater for his size, which allows him to get into the prime scoring areas, creating chances for him to utilize his soft touch around the net."
Don't let Jones' speed and skilled hands in tough areas fool you; he is a power forward in every sense of the term.
He has 90 penalty minutes this season with London and had 116 penalty minutes with the USNTDP team. He piled up another 189 penalty minutes in 38 games with the United States National Under-17 team last season. As he has matured, Jones' penalty minutes have decreased, which means he's harnessing his physical play.
"Max is an extremely physical player who plays with an edge," Ryan said. "The energy and aggression he plays with is infectious, and he has done a very good job of learning to control his emotions as he transitions to the OHL game."
Jones is the son of former NHL veteran Brad Jones, who played for the Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, and Philadelphia Flyers from 1986-92. Max said his father has been a serious influence on his life on and off the ice.
"He's a lot better skater, he's a lot faster than I was," Max Jones said at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in September. "I can skate, but I play a lot [more] physical than he did. I don't know how that happened, but obviously he teaches me the aspects of the game that I don't have."
The use of his size and physical ability is an area Jones' father encouraged him to use to his advantage.
"He thinks the power forward role in the NHL is a big one," Jones said. "I try to play that role as best as I can, and he obviously knows what the power forward role is because he played in the NHL for six years, so anything he tells me I just listen to him."
Jones' physical play in London under coach Dale Hunter shouldn't come as a surprise, considering how Hunter played during his NHL career, but could Jones' Knights teammates be the reason behind his offensive success? He plays alongside Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner, Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak, and fellow 2016 draft prospect Matthew Tkachuk, who all are in the top five in OHL scoring.
"London is an extremely talented team and Max has done an impressive job of adjusting to the OHL," Ryan said. "He has been an extremely consistent performer and has shown steady development from the beginning of the season. The energy and passion he plays with is undeniable, and he has utilized his assets to be a positive factor for the London Knights."
Jones, who has fit in well with the Knights, was given some advice on how to handle joining a high-profile team like London.
"I'm in the same agency as [Max] Domi, so I touched base with him a bit," Jones said of the Coyotes rookie, who starred in London for four seasons. "Obviously he's a great hockey player and you want to follow up what he did there, so he just talked to me a lot about what to expect. He told me everything was going to be great, everything was going to be awesome. He said I'm going to have a great year and everything, and 10,000-plus fans are there. Everything should go great."
So far, Domi's words have held true and Jones has had a great start to his junior career. He hopes it continues into the OHL playoffs, perhaps as far as the Memorial Cup, and ends with hearing his name called in the first round of the NHL Draft.
"Max has continued to develop and play a bigger role on his team as the season has progressed," Ryan said. "He is a very attractive prospect who has the potential to be an effective player at the NHL level."