EDMONTON, AB - At 6-foot-4, and loaded with talent, Nashville Predators defenceman Seth Jones casts a big shadow. In time, his younger brother Caleb hopes to be well out from under it— carving out a legacy that is all his own.
The elder Jones was taken fourth overall in 2013. And while Seth is coming off two seasons in the NHL, Caleb is just breaking into the world of being an NHL prospect. Caleb is participating in his first Oilers Rookie Camp after being selected by the organization in the fourth round back in June.
“That’s something I’ve been trying to get out of for a long time now (being known only as Seth’s brother) and I think I’m starting to do that,” said Caleb.
|Seth Jones is the older brother of Oilers prospect Caleb Jones, and plays for the Nashville Predators. Photo by Getty Images. |
Jones didn’t make it any easier on himself by following in Seth’s footsteps. He’ll join the Portand Winterhawks of the WHL this season, a team his brother once played for.
“I think (the questions about Seth) will continue more in Portland and I kind of fell right into that. But I think I can be my own player in Portland and be a great player there. That will be the start of it,” said Jones. The start of his journey to becoming his own person and player in the eyes of teams, media and fans.
In Portland, Jones is expected to contribute right away. When the team announced his signing in April, Winterhawks General Manager and Head Coach Jamie Kompon said the defenceman will “play a big role on our blueline next season.”
“I’m ready for it,” said Jones. “I think I’m ready for top-four minutes in that league. It’s a tough league every night. That’s going to be the best thing for my development— playing a lot of minutes and being responsible too.”
Jones says he expects to be the quarterback of the Winterhawks power play. It’s a role he didn’t have with U.S. National Development Team.
“The (Portland) system is the right fit for me,” said Jones. “I like to get up in the play and they have their D play offence. So I think my development will be huge there and I think I’ll surprise people next year.”
Even if Jones begins to make a name for himself, the comparisons to his brother will persist. Caleb claims he and Seth do have similar characteristics.
|Caleb Jones skates for the Oilers at the 2015 Young Stars Classic. Photo by Marissa Baecker. |
“(Seth is) a very good skater and he can jump up in the play and create offence for the team,” said Jones. “I think I can model myself after that too. I think I showed that in Penticton. Right now, he’s a better defender than I am but I think I’m working on that. I think we’re pretty similar players though.”
But they also have differing traits.
“I like to hit guys more than (Seth) does,” said Jones. “I like to finish guys through the corners and I’ll throw an open-ice hit every once in a while but I definitely play a more aggressive style.”
Although Jones wants to step out of his brother’s shadow, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t embrace him as a resource.
“Personally, inside, I think I leaned on him a lot more (growing up) than I think he realizes,” said Caleb. “(Seth has) always been more of a quiet kid. He kind of just leads by example. I watched him play all the way up through midget. I was right there in the rink. I’d watch him practice and things like that, just to see how he works, how he handles himself off the ice and his consistency every day. He was a pro when he was 15 so it’s tough to match that but it’s definitely something I’m trying to do.”
The Jones brothers developed a competitive edge growing up together. Caleb, Seth and third Jones brother Justin, always found ways to push each other, even off the ice. Basketball was a way to blow off steam.
“Usually we’d meet four or five times a week and just play one-on-one games for the most part,” said Caleb. “It got a little heated sometimes. Not much on the ice though. It was more off-ice sports. We’d compete in maybe NHL on Xbox and stuff like that. Everything was competitive because we come from an athletic background.”
|Caleb Jones pursues the puck in a game against the Calgary Flames Rookies at the 2015 Young Stars Classic. Photo by Marissa Baecker. |
The Jones brothers’ father is retired NBA player, Popeye Jones. It’s hard not to grow up as an athlete when you’re surrounded by them every day.
“We were all like three best friends,” Caleb said of Seth and Justin. “We didn’t have a lot of school friends because most of our friends were in hockey. We hung out together a lot. It was a fun relationship. We obviously had the fights like normal brothers do, but I think we built a strong relationship over the years just growing up and being at the same rinks and same organizations and things like that.”
The Jones boys are close. When the Oilers selected Caleb, Seth was by his side to offer him advice.
“(Seth) told me that’s when the work starts,” said Jones. “It’s good to get drafted, but it’s going to be even harder to crack the NHL and take someone else’s job in the future.”
His older brother is right— it will be tough. However, that’s exactly what 18-year-old Caleb wants to do.
When asked about his legacy and what he wants to be known and remembered for 10-15 years from now he said, “I want to be known for being a strong two-way player on the ice. When someone says, ‘that’s Caleb Jones,’ they’ll know Seth but they’ll also know who Caleb Jones is.”