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FEATURE: Jones maximizing skillset

"You always continue to build those talents, so he's just a young player that's finally finding his groove. I've liked the way he's stepped into games," Head Coach Dave Tippett said

by Jamie Umbach /

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - There are no illusions about the game Caleb Jones brings to the table.

With the Oilers navigating a critical junction of their season and entering another pivotal Pacific Division battle in the desert with the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, the performance of the 22-year-old blueliner is looking less and less like it could be a mirage.

Jones has found the back of the net in two-straight games against the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames, slotting in with elevated ice time on the left side of a pairing with Matt Benning since Kris Russell was placed in concussion protocol following a shootout loss in the Battle of Alberta on Wednesday.

"It feels good. I think any time you can contribute on the score sheet a little bit, it increases your morale and obviously your confidence," Jones said at the Ice Den in Scottsdale on Monday.

The Arlington, Texas product has potted both of his tallies this season in the last three games since signing a new two-year extension on January 15, putting his yearly total at two goals and three assists in 26 games.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Confident Caleb 02.03.20

"Any time an organization shows confidence in you, it's awesome," he said. "Now I can kind of just worry about getting better every day and continuing to grow my game. I feel like every game I'm getting better and improving in many areas."

With saying that, Jones has stuck to his word with a greater tendency of shooting the puck and understanding of knowing when, and how, to play a pass at NHL speed.

"I think lately I've been having more of a shooting mentality from the left side, so I'm getting a few more looks at the net," Jones said. "That one a couple of nights ago (against Calgary) was a roller and just found its way in. I'll continue to shoot the puck and hopefully, good things happen. I think my puck-moving has come along really well and I'm starting to play more and get some opportunities."

All of this combined with balancing his offensive duties with the ones in the Oilers own end - one that Head Coach Dave Tippett pointed out as the foundation for a big-league blueliner.

Video: RAW | Jones

"He had to do those things to become an NHL player," Tippett said. "It's part of the growth of a young player getting up to speed, and you have to be able to use your talents to the max that you can.

"You always continue to build those talents, so he's just a young player that's finally finding his groove. I've liked the way he's stepped into games. He's not intimidated by anything and he moves the puck well."

Having the ability to do all this from both sides of the blueline is a valuable tool to Tippett and his coaching staff that was noted at the beginning of the campaign during Training Camp. 

"That's one of the things that we liked about him coming out of Training Camp, because ultimately you're going to have injuries on the back end," the bench boss said. "To have people that are flexible like that, I think he prefers the left. I'm one of those guys who likes the left and right defenceman, but he's showed himself very well on the other side too. That's a good trait for him to have."

Video: RAW | Tippett 

Caleb's teammates, especially those who share the blueline, are acknowledging his strides and the value the young defender will play for the Oilers both in this season and seasons to come. 

"It's really nice to see some development," Oscar Klefbom said. "Obviously he has a lot of potential and we're starting to see some good things from him. He has a lot of confidence with the puck and good poise, he's a really good skater and creates some time for himself that makes it easier and he's going to be an important piece for us." 

The expectations are only set to ramp up with 30 games remaining in the regular season and the club's sights firmly set on the playoffs.

"We have to keep going here, and like I said there's many games left and some big games coming up. We need him to play his A-game."

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