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Jones impressive in Predators prospect game

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

Author: Alain Poupart | Correspondent

Seth Jones may or may not have made the Florida Panthers regret not taking him with the second pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

What is certain is that Friday night he didn't do anything to make the Nashville Predators regret taking him with the fourth pick.

Once touted as the potential first pick in the 2013 draft, the defenseman vowed to do his best to make the Colorado Avalanche, Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning "regret not taking me."

In his first game wearing a Predators jersey, Jones showed off his smooth skating, deft stickhandling and big shot in an 8-4 victory against the Panthers at the prospect tournament at Florida's practice facility.

"Seth played very well," Nashville assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. "Certainly you can see his elite thought process and talent and ability to escape under pressure. I think he's going to be just a terrific player for us."

Jones didn't record a point but had a couple of powerful slap shots on goal and made a slick stickhandling move to get past Panthers 2010 first-round pick Quinton Howden in the first period.

Jones was playing the puck behind the Nashville net when Howden came in on the forecheck. Jones stickhandled the puck behind his back to get past Howden and start skating up ice.

"I thought I played pretty well, pretty solid," Jones said. "The first period was a little tough to get into it, the first intense period that you played after the summer. But after that, I thought I made some good plays out there, stayed pretty confident within my game."

Jones said it meant just a little bit more to play his first game against the Panthers, a team many thought would draft him after Colorado took forward Nathan MacKinnon with the first pick.

"Yeah, in the back of my head it did a little bit," Jones said. "But you've got to put that stuff behind you. You've got to think team first, and obviously I'm not a selfish player in any way, so I'm not going to do anything to prove myself to them. I'm just going to play hockey out there."

Florida players were impressed with Jones.

"I think he's going to have a big career in the NHL, for sure," said forward Francis Beauvillier, a 2012 sixth-round pick who ended last season in the American Hockey League. "He's impressive. You think that because of his size, he's not going to be mobile or he won't have hands, but he's a defenseman who's got hands and is mobile even at his size. And he's able to hit hard."

Though defeating the Panthers Friday night was nice, Jones' focus these days is on trying to do whatever needs to be done to make the Predators' opening-night roster. The son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, Seth said he's had a couple of talks with Predators coaches, who have told him he'll have to earn his spot.

"And I totally agree with them," Jones said. "Nothing is given. I need to play my best hockey in order to make the team."

Jones had a goal and an assist in a 7-4 loss to the the Lightning on Saturday. The Predators are watching to see how he deals with a different level of hockey, but the skills which Jones demonstrated time and again with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League obviously are there.

"Anybody can see how good he is out here right now," Fenton said. "He's just got to get his feet wet to pro hockey, see what it's like to compete against men instead of the junior-level guys. I think we'll get to see that out of him."

Fenton said he was pleased Friday night with the performance of forward Filip Forsberg, another high draft pick who could play a key role for the Predators this season.

The 11th selection in the 2012 draft by the Washington Capitals, Forsberg was acquired in the trade involving forward Martin Erat last April. Forsberg played five games for Nashville last season after coming over from Sweden.

Friday night, Forsberg scored early in the third period to start a six-goal outburst that helped the Predators erase a 3-2 deficit against the Panthers. Forsberg added a highlight-reel goal when the teams had a five-player shootout after the game, then had a goal and an assist Saturday.

"Filip looked really good," Fenton said. "The five games we brought him for last year really gave him an introduction to North America. You see his elite offensive sense, how he cuts to the middle and how he holds on to the puck and he can draw people down and still find people as a receiver. He's going to be a terrific player for us."

Forsberg had one assist with Nashville last April and is hoping to parlay a strong training camp into a spot on the roster.

It's the same for Jones, who said he felt he took a step in the right direction in his first game as an NHL player.

"I thought I showed some skills and I made some plays," he said.

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