Kent Murphy has coached a number of great players, many who’ve gone on to play Division I college hockey. Though Seth Jones is not one of those college prospects, he certainly fits the bill as one of the better players. Maybe even the best.
A former Littleton Hawks and Colorado Thunderbirds player back when his father, Popeye Jones, played for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, Jones’ formative years on the ice came under the coaching of Murphy and Angelo Ricci. Now he’s being considered the top prospect in the June 30 NHL entry draft.
There’s little doubt that Jones was a talented player when he played three seasons for Murphy with the Hawks and Thunderbirds. Jones started playing for Littleton hockey as a 5-year-old, and he played eight years here before moving to Texas. But for one to say then that they knew where he would be now would be hard to fathom, Murphy said.
“If anybody tells you then how good a player someone is going to be when they’re 18 they’re probably kidding you,” Murphy said. “This is a tribute to his hard work and effort and the talent that he has really maximized.”
And Jones has just gotten better and more dominant as he’s gotten older. As a member of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League last season, Jones, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound defenseman, played in 61 games, scoring 14 goals and handing out 42 assists. He was named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year.
“He’s a great skater, but probably more than that he has a great mind for the game,” Murphy said. “He’s a team player who makes everyone around him better.”
Many draft analysts project Jones to go early in this year’s NHL draft, even possibly at No. 1 to the Colorado Avalanche. But according to a June 18 report in The Denver Post, Joe Sakic, the Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations, said the team was leaning toward taking a forward rather than Jones. While Murphy doesn’t knows what Sakic and new head coach Patrick Roy will do, if he had his way Jones would be making a homecoming of sorts.
“Selfishly, I personally would love to have him here. To have him as his Pee Wee coach and someone I’ve coached for three years, we had a great bond,” Murphy said. “Me, personally, I wished they’d pick him. I think he would be awesome for the community. He’s an articulate young man and a great ambassador for the game.”
No matter where Seth Jones goes, his first taste of hockey will have come from right here in Littleton.
Contact Michael Hicks at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.