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FEATURE: Making the jump

Oilers defence prospect Caleb Jones believes he's ready for the jump from junior to pro hockey

by Paul Gazzola /

It's a jump that can feel like a hurdle but with the right amount of preparation, may only need a hop.

It's part of the process and it's the next step for Oilers prospect Caleb Jones, who believes he's got the vert for it.

Video: CAMP RAW | Caleb Jones

The 117th-overall selection (Round 4) in the 2015 NHL Draft signed his entry-level contract in April of 2016 and aspires to play professional hockey with the American Hockey League's Bakersfield Condors next season.

"I've heard the jump from junior to the pro level is a big jump," Jones said at Day 4 of Development Camp in Jasper. "I just want to make sure I'm as best prepared as I can."

The rearguard hasn't been skating much at Camp due to nasal surgery he had three weeks ago but the optics of his looming leap of faith look good.

In his 2015-16 season, the defender suited up in three games for the Condors. He then followed that campaign with another solid year of development, one that saw Jones tally 62 points in 63 games while incorporating an element of leadership on his Portland Winterhawks. Over winter, he played for the United States at the 2017 World Junior Championship, seeing big minutes in big games and eventually exiting the tournament a champion.

"I got three games in and I got to see what that level is like," Jones said. "How big and strong and fast those players were. Three games are a small sample size but having those games, I have an idea of what to expect."

Now, it appears as though it's time.

"I believe my ability and believe I can make an impact at the next level," Jones said, also including what he needs to do in order to make it happen. 

"I think just having a good summer, eating healthy and trying to train right. Get stronger and do everything I can to give myself the best opportunity to succeed."

Jones isn't alone, either. He has full support from the Oilers organization and will be trying out alongside his good friend and fellow Camp participant Ethan Bear. The two have talked about the prospect of becoming pro together.

"Me and him constantly talk," said Jones. "We're really good friends and we want each other to succeed."

Jones shoots left while Bear is a righty. There's a chance the two could safeguard the blueline as a pair.

"If we're playing together, that would be really fun. We've been rivals for a couple years now so it'll be nice to be teammates for once."

The training won't end at Development Camp for Jones. When he's home in Dallas, TX, he skates and trains with his brother Seth, a stalwart Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman. 

"We train together and we're on the ice (together)," Jones said of his big bro. "He's helped me out the last couple years showing me different things with skating and skills and stuff like that.

"I feel I get better every summer because of it."

Given his preparation, there's no reason for Jones to be afraid of heights. 

The jump is his to make.

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