Max Jones likes to leave an impact on you.
The 6'3, 200lb son of former NHLer Brad Jones has made his mark on the OHL and the London Knights this season, scoring 25+24 in his first OHL season after a year with the USNTDP.
The product of Rochester, MI is a power forward in every sense of the word...while we praised Julien Gauthier in our first draft profile as a skilled giant who can also play physical, Jones is the opposite...a vicious bulldog of a player who can also carry no mean level of skill when he wants to.
In that respect he is very similar to a certain Milan Lucic...and we all know how popular Lucic was in Boston (well, until he wasn't).
So far, so prototypical Bruin. Jones has scouts excited, though, with the fact that unlike many hard-hitting players of his size, his foot-speed and acceleration are impressive. Matt Ryan of NHL Central scouting told NHL.com that:
"He possesses a rare blend of size, speed and skill. His separation speed and quickness make him a very intriguing prospect. He is a very dynamic skater for his size, which allows him to get into the prime scoring areas, creating chances for him to utilize his soft touch around the net."
That's going to be music to the ears of a lot of teams looking for an impact prospect over the next year or two in the lower reaches of the top ten and early teens.
This video will give you a pretty good idea of what Jones is about, pretty quickly.
The main thing immediately obvious in that video is the sheer strength that Jones possesses. Both the first two goals (and indeed many after that) showcase his speed, with the second in particular also showcasing his strength. What's particularly notable about both is the reluctance the defensemen seem to have to physically challenge him or even attempt to force his play, particularly when he's moving at speed...that 6'3 200lb body carries a hell of a lot of momentum, it appears.
The third goal is notable because it shows a different side of Jones-the persistence in front of the net...he goes full-length to bat a loose puck home after the initial tip doesn't quite get through. It's also notable how enthusiastic his celebrations are...this is a guy who appears to genuinely love what he does, especially if that involves scoring.
Something else the video showcases is his somewhat awkward but effective skating style...Jones will never win any awards for beauty in motion, and his general demeanour when skating on the puck, all arms and legs flying, is more reminiscent of a charging bull elephant than anything, but it works.
Passing is something Jones can do well enough, too. He's intelligent enough to look for the open man and take that extra second rather than always charge straight ahead for the net, although it is clear he's at his happiest charging down the ice at full whack looking for a puck to slam into the net.
Or, indeed, an opposition player to slam into the plexiglass. As a forechecker, Jones is relentless and has the power in hits to back up his charge, too. His defensive style mainly consists as much of looking to remove opposition forwards' heads from their shoulders as puck from their sticks (with watchers most of the time still not sure exactly which would be his preferred outcome. To be honest, half the time it's not immediately obvious which Jones himself prefers.
He has what defenders like to call "playing with a mean streak" and critics like to call "a vicious temperament". It's shown in the video in a few big hits/physical altercations, and also in the fact that he managed to earn 300+ penalty minutes with the USNDTP last season in 62 total games, as well as 109 in 52 this year in the OHL.
Oh yes, and it also earned him a 12-game suspension for one of the most vicious headhunting blindside hits you'll see in a very long time...one that Jones himself thought was apparently worthy of laughter with his opponent, Justin Brack of the Owen Sound Attack, still prone on the ice:
Watch the replay. That hit isn't a "collision" or "mistimed". Jones comes round the back of the net watching the puck, watching Brack, and lining up to explode straight through him from the blindside. Then the hit's landed and it's even more vicious than it could have been with just a collision.
Jones has an issue. Scouts like to defend it by saying players "play on the edge", but Jones has crossed the line more than you'd expect of an NHL power forward, and he'll have to learn very quickly that using that kind of play/intimidation tactic in the NHL or even the AHL will see someone very big and very angry look to seek retribution on the ice, and questions asked off it.
It's generally thought that the 12-game suspension for this moment of calculated idiocy won't affect Jones' draft status much...after all, the scouts know what they're watching and Jones' gifts are considerable.
But it should cause teams to pause a little before taking him...at 14 there will be equally talented and similar players around (Julien Gauthier, for example) who are more level-headed and should probably be considered ahead of him.
Whether or not the Bruins take him at 14 (assuming he's still available) will say a lot about the team they're trying to build, and whether their thinking is guided by the old-school smash-and-bang philosophy certain sections of the NHL media love to espouse (with some of the loudest of these being in Boston) even as all the evidence is showing that it's in decline, or whether they're looking to move forward, not back.
Jones is unapologetically old-school as a hockey player. Whether or not that will help or harm him in the coming years remains to be seen. He is certainly a first-round prospect...but one that probably comes with a few warning labels attached.