| |Ryan Jones celebrates his first goal of the season on October 10, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan)
In emphatic fashion, Ryan Jones
has found his niche in Edmonton.
After struggling to earn his keep in the NHL during his first few professional seasons, the 26-year old native of Chatham, Ontario has found his home. Jones was put on waivers by the Nashville Predators on March 3, 2010, where the Oilers took the opportunity to welcome the gritty forward into the organization.
"It was scary," Jones said of being put on waivers. "I had went through one free agency and got traded, and then made it through a year of what seemed like of up and down hockey. The next year it was the trade deadline, and you never know what to take of it because you haven't been through it."
While his early career in the NHL was dominated by frequent movement, the 2010-11 campaign has provided a fresh start for a player looking to firmly establish himself in this league. The timing couldn’t be better, as the Oilers organization is changing the guard to reflect the same philosophy.
So far, the test has been passed with ease. Jones’ fresh start has seen him contribute seven goals on the season; a number equal to his previous career-high totals with the Predators.
"They're going in, that's all I can say. I'll just keep working. If they keep going in, I'll be happy. If not, I'll just keep finishing checks and keep being a presence."
Jones brings a unique brand of skill to the lineup and the varying combinations have provided him with different opportunities to succeed.
"Tom (Renney) told me right from the start of the season to be ready to go up and down and just play everything that he asked of me," said Jones. "I don't change my game a whole lot depending on where I am in the lineup."
With a formula that’s working, his plan is as firm as they come. Simplicity has always been the key for his path toward an NHL career.
"I’m blue collar kind of guy. Go deep, get pucks, get pucks in, get pucks out."
It’s this easy-going attitude and simplified on-ice style that got him here in the first place. Jones, now 26, took one of the more indirect routes to the NHL as he enjoyed the late-teen lifestyle and conventional part-time job.
"18-19 [years old] was my first year of Junior B. I was working at Taco Bell. I was the drive-thru boy in Chatham. One of my best friends was a high-up manager there, so I was fortunate enough that he hired me out of high school."
|Ryan Jones scores a goal vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, Dec. 2/2010 (Photo by Getty Images) |
"I used to bring bags of Taco Bell on the bus when we'd go on road trips. The Maroons, who I was with then, we used to mangle Taco Bell before games and we were unreal. We had so much separation and nobody ever knew why."
Whether it was the high protein of a Chalupa contributing, or simply his energetic dedication to the game, Jones was turning heads at the junior level. It was only a matter of time before he was given the ultimate opportunity.
"My coach ended up being the General Manager for the Soo Greyhounds: Dave Torrie. He would come in that second year, and just say that there are some scouts here checking out whoever. If you get a goal or two and the third period comes around, get in a fight because it will help you out. That's what I would do. I got in a lot of fights that year, and it was back when guys were small, so I was able to handle myself."
It appeared to work. Jones was now further refined as a player, with the addition of an enhanced physical game to his already extensive two-way arsenal.
"I got drafted that year from Minnesota out of Junior B, which is a little bit unheard of. I went through the recruiting process and ended up at Miami."
It was here in the NCAA where Jones’ offensive game came to shine. In three of the four seasons he spent playing at Miami University, Jones was the leading goal-scorer by a healthy margin -- recording 22, 29 and 31 goal seasons respectively in his final three years. Although his individual game flourished, he’s extremely complimentary of his past teammates that helped contribute to his success and development.
"There's been a lot of good players there," Jones said of Miami. “Andy Green was the captain before I was the captain. I think he was kind of the pivotal point for the program; having a guy like him stay there for four years. Nathan Davis was another guy who, unfortunately, went through some injuries and isn't playing anymore, but he was an all-star in college. I was fortunate enough to play with him and he padded my stats a little bit."
"And the rest, they say, is history," Jones concluded.
What we’re seeing now from the feisty winger traces back to his days in Chatham. Jones’ fun-loving attitude and energetic personality personifies his game and has helped him achieve success at the NHL level. With a variety of skill-sets representing his on-ice production, his full potential has yet to be reached. What that can be is still to be determined.
Right now, everyone in Oil Country -- especially Ryan Jones
-- is enjoying the ride. Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola